Stress Leave: Am I Really Sick or Just Looking for an Easy Out?

Stress Leave: Am I Really Sick or Just Looking for an Easy Out? - My Life, I Guess
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I haven’t been doing a very good job of keeping up with this blog since I decided to change over to self-hosting back in March. Truth is, I haven’t been doing a very good job of keeping up with my LIFE since about then, either.

The stress, anxiety, and depression from being stuck in a toxic work environment is taking its toll on me – physically, mentally, and emotionally. I’ve been living my life on auto-pilot: get up, go to work, complain about everything, go to bed, repeat.

Yes, I’ve had some good days thrown in there, but I’ve also had some pretty horrible ones, too. Most days, however, feel more like nothing. Like I’m sitting, waiting – for a new job (or the prospect of one), to be laid off, or to reach my breaking point.

It’s frustrating because I’m not just sitting back and passively waiting for something to happen. I’m trying to make a change, but there’s only so much I can do. For over 6 months now, I’ve been checking the job postings daily, applying for everything that seems doable and/or reasonably enjoyable, reading books about career building and coping with stress, talking to medical professionals, and trying my hardest to stay at least a little optimistic about the whole thing. But I’m getting burnt-out… and I’m considering going on stress-leave.

Ironically, the thought of going on stress-leave stresses me out.

There are a whole lot of “what if’s” racing through my head, and few clear answers. I’m trying to convince myself that I’m “not really sick”. But I am sick – or at least I’m not healthy. I’m eating less, sleeping less, my back and neck are riddled with knots and pinched nerves, my body aches, the migraines are coming back, and it feels like there’s a brick of anxiety growing in my gut. Simple things are taking an exorbitant amount of focus and energy, and I no longer like things that I like. So why am I so hesitant to take a sick-leave to get better?

Has the stigma around mental health gotten the better of me, too?

I know that stress, depression, and anxiety are all real illnesses and that they have serious consequences if not treated. But here I am, showing many signs of all of the above, and I’m hesitant to take some time off.

Worse yet, I’m trying to convince myself that it’s just a bad day (or week, or month…). If I broke my leg, I wouldn’t think twice about laying around the house for a few weeks, so why is this different?

Why am I afraid to admit that I need some time to recover mentally?

What if I Don’t Qualify for Benefits?

My doctor says he’d sign whatever forms I need. As did a counsellor I’ve been seeing. The administrator for my work health benefits also said she’d help me with the Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits forms (even though short-term leaves are not covered by my plan). The forms will take about an hour to fill out, but I could be denied or have to provide more documentation. How do you “prove” that you are mentally unwell?  And how do you know when you are better?

What if I Have to Go Back to the Same Job?

Ideally, during this time off I would take my job searching up a notch, and would successfully find a new job where I’m happy and there are rainbows and kittens and magical unicorns. But I know there’s a good chance that that won’t happen and I’d have to return to my current job – either because I ran out of time, money, and/or (hopefully) because I got “better”. I really don’t want to return, though. If my bosses (and some co-workers) reacted so horribly to me for filing a labour board claim, I suspect their reaction in this situation would be worse. And I don’t imagine it would be long before the stress, anxiety, depression returns.

Will this be a “Red-Flag” on my Resume?

A short-term leave may not be reflected on my resume at all, but I’m still concerned about how this may impact my career and my job hunt. I live in a small city where it’s all about who you know, and I wouldn’t put it past my bosses to gossip. I’m trying really hard not to worry about this, and instead focus on this quote I found online (easier said than done):

Stress Leave: Am I Really Sick or Just Looking for an Easy Out - My Life, I Guess

What if Having Nothing to do Makes Things Worse?

I’m worried that not having to get out of bed each morning would mean that I just wouldn’t get out of bed at all… Instead, I’d sleep all day, rarely leave my apartment, watch entire series of tv shows at a time, and stop hanging out with my friends. I’d like to think that the break would be the kick in the ass I need. I’d finally have the time to do a thorough job search, get help with my resume/cover letter, come up with a plan, run every day, cook every day, clean my apartment, write more, read more, explore more, go outside more, volunteer, and be happy. But what if I don’t do any of these things?

Will I be Able to Enjoy the Good Days?

All the stories floating around about people getting fired for doing [insert activity here] while on sick leave have made me paranoid. I realize that most of these cases are simply fraud, but with depression, stress, and anxiety every day if different. You don’t just wake up one day cured – it’s a process that can take years, with many ups and downs along the way. Am I supposed to pretend there are no good days? Hide in my apartment for fear of being caught smiling in public and end up being fired?

What if I am Faking It?

Ok, I know I’m not faking it, but perhaps I’m exaggerating it? I’ve been known to be a wee bit of a hypochondriac, and I’m concerned that I’m making things worse in my head than they really are. I’ve unfortunately dealt with depression before, and this doesn’t feel as bad, or as hopeless as it did back then.

Although, I’ve never dealt with anxiety before and the fact that I feel nervous most of the time (over what?) is pretty indicative that I’m not faking it. Same goes for the unexpected return of the migraines. But it’s no secret I don’t like my job, and I want out. Especially with the summer coming, which is where the migraines originated last year. This is a way out; a way to “quit” without really quitting. (Whether that’s good or bad, I’m not sure.)

Can I Afford It?

This, of course, is the biggest issue. I have some savings, but not much – certainly not enough to live off of for more than a couple of months. And using all my savings is a terrifying thought! I don’t make a lot of money either, so collecting “55% of your average insurable weekly earnings” while off work thru E.I. would be very tight – things are already tight collecting 100% of my earnings. I’ve been trying to cut back everywhere I can in preparation, but that’s not making much difference. (I suppose the bright side of going on medical leave vs. being laid off is that I’d still have a job to come back to if money did become too much of a problem.)

So friends, acquaintances, fellow bloggers, and strangers of the Internet.  What do I do? 

I know this post only provides a snapshot of the bigger picture, but I’ve been so focused and worried over all the nitty gritty little “what if’s”, that the bigger picture is also getting lost on me.  I’m tired of being stuck.  I need to do something.  I’m just not sure which direction to take as there are pros and cons no matter which way I go.

Any advice, comments or feedback is greatly appreciated.

I can’t even fully admit to myself that something is not right, so putting this out for all to read and asking for feedback is scary.  I want your honesty, but I do hope it comes with kindness.

Positive, negative, your own stories or experiences, pointing out something I haven’t considered, a virtual hug to show support, a virtual ‘suck it up, buttercup’ slap across the face, resources, links, whatever.

Comment anonymously if you’d like. Or better yet, mail me: mylifeiguess @ gmail.com.

And thank you.

 


 

A toxic work environment, feeling burnt out and considering taking a stress leave from work. But how do you know if you're really sick or just looking for an easy way out? #stress #stressleave #mentalhealth
   

108 thoughts on “Stress Leave: Am I Really Sick or Just Looking for an Easy Out?

  1. Liquid

    A toxic work environment can be a major bummer. It’s up to management to take better care of their employees but it’s too often that they don’t. Workplace stress and other mental health problems in Canada result in $33 billion in lost productivity every year so you aren’t alone in how you feel ;) Sounds like your doctor and councilor are pretty supportive, so that’s good. Personally I would take the time off and search for another job, despite your financial situation being a bit tight. Good luck :D
    Liquid recently posted: How to Make Elite BabiesMy Profile

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    1. Amanda

      Thank you!! Fortunately (unfortunately?) I’m not the only one in the office who feels this way, which is reassuring that it’s not just me.
      Amanda recently posted: Stress Leave: Am I Really Sick or Just Looking for an Easy Out? My Profile

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    2. Julie

      Go on stress leave!! I was so stressed in my last job that I felt constantly sick all the time. I was nervous, had no appetite and had many sleepless nights. I worked in a very toxic department too. I went of stress leave for 6 months (full pay) and when it was time to return the company offered me a different job in a different area or compensation…….I took the compo :) Three months later after many interviews I got another job!!

      Take stress leave if you can. No job is worth getting sick over.

      Reply

      1. Amanda

        Wow, that’s awesome that you got that much time, at full pay, AND your company was willing to work with you! I did end up taking a leave for just over 3 months, but I only earned 55% of my income, so that was tough. Thankfully though, I found a new job and things are going well! Glad things worked out for you too.

        Reply

  2. April

    Reading all of this had ME feeling stressed so I can only imagine how much your own head is exploding right now. That’s so much to have in your mind at one time. I can tell you this much, stress leave obviously doesn’t mean wrestling a shark but it does mean taking the necessary steps to gain back your mental health. Staying inside like a recluse in no way would help with that so you can move freely around in the public eye. After all, you need to eat, you may need doctor’s appointments and to run errands. Life doesn’t stop due to stress leave. Work does. My friend has been off from work due to cancer and, despite her treatments being over, needs time to gain back her strength and get her energy levels up to par. She still goes out, shops, she even took a low-key vacation to Florida (as a chance to rejuvenate) and spends time with family and friends whenever her energy allows. Just check the paperwork regarding your stress leave and it’s stipulations and you’ll be fine. I think it’s a smart idea. I know how stress you’ve been and your work should feel ashamed for pushing you to this point. And I know it isn’t just about work and I honestly believe you need some proper me time. You need to find a place where you feel less bombarded by all these thoughts and more capable to sift through them and determine your next move. I believe in you.

    Reply

    1. Amanda

      Thanks for always being there April. You’re amazing!!

      Reply

  3. CeCe @Frugalista Married

    I wish I had known about stress leave when I was pushed into depression by my old job. I NEEDED it bad. But like you the loss of money would have been a factor. I don’t even know if I would have done it. I’m telling you. I’ve been there. I worked at a job for 8 years that literally caused me to go into depression. I did not want to wake up in the morning most days. It’s not good for you. It’s no way to live. People get fired and then come back and get new jobs and this is nothing near close to that and how you explain that on your resume. I think you should take the risk and do it if you think you can financially keep your bills paid.
    CeCe @Frugalista Married recently posted: Magazine MusingsMy Profile

    Reply

    1. Amanda

      Thanks CeCe!! That’s a really good point about people getting fired vs. going on leave. Money will be tight, but if I’m only off for a month or so, I could easily manage.

      Reply

  4. Katie C.

    *hugs* I think you definitely need to be kinder to yourself. People give me this advice all the time, and I’m just now beginning to take it. Think about what you would say to a friend if he or she were going through a situation similar to yours. You’d be kind and understanding, right? Give yourself that same courtesy. You’re not making this up. You’re not exaggerating. Your stress/anxiety/depression are manifesting with physical symptoms (eating less, sleeping less, body aches, etc.).

    Even with the chronic migraines, I’ve felt like you before. Others treated my situation as less serious than it was because – most times – migraines don’t exhibit themselves outwardly the way a broken leg does. (I did have one so intense after my sinus surgery that I could barely open my eyes, but that’s a rarity.) So I convinced myself that maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. Others weren’t taking it seriously, so maybe I shouldn’t take it so seriously!

    But here’s the thing… You’re the only one looking out for you (well, you and your loved ones). Your coworkers are not going to be the ones coming to work miserable every day with pain and without sleep. So who cares what they think about how you deal with your health? You have to do what’s best for YOU. And like I said before, be kind. Don’t expect yourself to go from being miserable at work every day to being the Most Productive Person on Stress Leave EVER. If you spend a whole day in bed watching TV here and there, that’s okay! It might be helpful to enlist the help of a friend (or boyfriend or family member). Maybe make a (REASONABLE) plan for stress leave. What things would you really like to accomplish? (Sounds like getting a lead on a job should be numero uno.) Then make a list of steps you can take to accomplish these goals. Maybe share this list with someone and update them once a week or every other day (however often you need) letting them know what you accomplished and how you feel about it.

    I think this is an amazing opportunity to heal a little and hopefully make changes that will make your life easier/happier going forward. *more hugs*
    Katie C. recently posted: Closet constructionMy Profile

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  5. Amanda

    Thanks Katie! I was waiting for you to comment since I know you’re unfortunately dealing with similar issues. You’re advice (as well as the advice of others) is exactly what I need. I’m being far too hard on myself and I imagine that’s only making things worse.

    I like the suggestion of making a plan. My brother in law also suggested that I actually leave the house (library, cafe, etc.) to do my job searching and blogging and whatnot to help avoid that hibernating/hopeless feeling.

    I’m pretty sure I’m going to go ahead with this. I’ve been fighting it too long (November and March were notably bad months) and it’s clearly not getting better.

    Thanks again!!

    Reply

    1. eemusings

      I’m a bit late to this! I can understand your reluctance but that’s what stress leave is for and I definitely think you should make use of it. Best of luck!
      eemusings recently posted: First impressions of CambodiaMy Profile

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  6. Debt and the Girl

    I just came across your blog. I have to say that I can relate to what you are going through. I would email you my story but its not letting me email you for some reason. I just wanted to let you know that you are not alone and I truly hope that you are able to do what you want. I don’t know if someone suggested this or if you are already doing this but have you thought about seeing a counselor? I totally understand if you don’t want to do that. Keep your chin and know that everything will be fine…better than fine…they will be great :)
    Debt and the Girl recently posted: Happy Memorial Day!!!My Profile

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    1. Amanda

      I would LOVE to read your story. I’ve been desperately trying to find personal stories online through blogs and whatnot and have come up short. Is it my email (mylifeiguess@gmail.com) that’s not working? I can give you my personal email if needed.

      I am seeing a counsellor already. I don’t fully “click” with her, but she’s suggested some pretty good resources that have helped.

      I had a few things happen in the last few days that have 99% convinced I’m going to take a leave. I just gotta crunch the numbers to make sure I can afford it without dipping into my savings too much before I go ahead.

      Thanks so much for your kind words! I’ve been reading your blog and following you on Twitter but haven’t commented much.
      Amanda recently posted: Stress Leave: Am I Really Sick or Just Looking for an Easy Out?My Profile

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  7. Janine

    Ultimately you need to take care of yourself first and foremost. My advice would be to find an activity (whether it’s reading, running, yoga etc) that helps you cope with your stress. Then you can focus on finding a job that doesn’t make you sick!

    Feel better!
    Janine recently posted: Comment on Net Worth by Money Isn’t My EverythingMy Profile

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    1. Amanda

      Thanks Janine! I’ve always liked the idea of yoga, but hate it whenever I try it. Maybe I need to find the right instructor.

      Reply

  8. SuburbanFinance

    Working in an environment like that can definitely drag people down and take a toll on a persons mental health. You don’t sound like you are being dramatic or anything and I think stress leave should be used if its necessary. Where I live it’s illegal to discriminate against people that take leaves like that so it shouldn’t be a problem in the future.
    SuburbanFinance recently posted: Does Everyone Need and Emergency Fund?My Profile

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    1. Amanda

      Thanks for your support!

      It’s illegal to discriminate here too, but I wouldn’t put it past them. They aren’t the best managers – I recently had to report them to the labour board for not providing breaks. But I’ve learned to document everything in the process.

      Reply

  9. Cait

    I’m really late to the game here but have been going through your archives this morning and want to comment on everything. There is definitely a huge stigma about medical/stress leaves but, if all of your doctors say they are willing to sign the forms and help you make it happen, that’s a sign that you do need a break from your regular routine. I have a really hard time accepting help from others… but sometimes you just need to. xo
    Cait recently posted: August 2013 Budget & GoalsMy Profile

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    1. Amanda

      I wish there wasn’t such a stigma. I’ve been pretty open about it with those closest to me, and fairly open with this blog. But when my neighbour asked why I wasn’t going to work anymore, I just shrugged and mumbled “I’m off for the summer”, to which he joked about how nice it must be. It’d be a lot easier if I had broken my leg or something instead, so that people would “get it”.

      Reply

      1. chris

        Hello Dean:
        I like you am under quite a bit of stress at my work the environment is toxic the managers are not the brightest by far, recently I have had a few situations where management has abused there authority and given me a one day suspension and then a three day suspension for minor errors which others I work with have made and received no disciplinary action what so ever. now I feel as if I am being singled out, after much thought and deliberation I have decided to go on sick leave from my position, the stress of losing my job and making any further errors is dragging me down I am making errors on simple tasks I’m second guessing myself and constantly worried that
        the company or one or two individuals in management are building a case against me in order to fire me.
        this in and of its self is enough to stress anyone completely, therefore I am documenting everything and upon my return to work will be advising a lawyer and giving him all my documentation, should I they try to fire me I will go after the two individuals that are responsible
        At my place of work there is a two tier system for discipline unfortunately I’m on the wrong tier.
        sincerely
        stressed to the max
        stat eng
        former hospital worker
        power engineer

        ;

        Reply

  10. Dean Taylor

    Amanda, I am a 53 yr old male that is physically fit an pretty healthy. I work at a community hospital. I have had one problem at work in the first nine years I have been there. I have had a new female boss for 10 months and I have been suspended two times. The Union is fighting this but the stress is absolutely killing me. I have been to the hospital for chest pains and get headaches that I have never got before. I am getting a lot of pains and thought about how stress kills. I would like to be around a little longer to see my kids grow up. are your replies Canadian? I need to know the laws and can a regular part time employee get stress leave?. Thanks for all your help?…Dean

    Reply

    1. Amanda

      Dean – I sent you an email. Please let me know if you don’t get it.

      Reply

    2. Jackie

      Dean, I am also part time permanent. Amanda, can you let me know too? Thank you!

      Reply

  11. Alexandra

    Hi when reading this it’s as if I wrote it. I have finally admitted to myself this week that I need help and time off. It hit me when I was driving down the motorway wishing somebody to crash into me. Then just burst into tears. I work for one of the biggest companies in the world and I am now stressing about going on stress leave. But I am seeing doc in the morning.

    My heart is racing all of the time, my neck and shoulders hurt so much all the time. I feel sick all day everyday and so eat little. I can’t sleep a day my mood swings are horrible. I’m angry most of the time and can’t remember the last time I was happy. I have a 3 yr old and I’m worried it will affect him if it continues.

    You have inspired me with this post and the comments to get myself well and work will have to deal with it.

    If they sack me well god knows. I’m a single mother getting no financial assistance working my butt off.

    I hope things are better for you now. Xx

    Reply

    1. Amanda

      Alexandra – I just emailed you back. Hopefully it reaches you.

      Reply

    2. Jewelee

      I also read this thinking…omg…this is me! I’m scared and after 7 yrs, a new boss, a complete change in job description, a remodel in the store I have worked in that should have been finished in two weeks and we are going on 2 months now. They are putting on odd jobs and some of these so cannot do because I have no training and its making me stressed. Crying, not sleeping, not eatting, calling in sick shock I had never done in my 7 yrs of employment. I live in California. If anyone knows the laws that pertain to CA. I would be so appreciative of some advice. Thanks so much.

      Reply

      1. Jill

        Everyone, contact your legislator and tell them to sponsor and support the Health Workplace Bill for your state.

        Reply

  12. Shelley

    Hi Amanda,

    I’m in Manitoba in a federal job that I hate every…single…day! Thanks for your post, it made me feel a smidge better that I’m not the only one in a toxic work environment. My boss makes rude comments to me in front of my peers every once in a while, and it’s enough to make me want to either freak out on his a$$, or quit. I’m going to my Dr. to tell her I’m on the edge, and I’m about to do something that will make me unemployed! She’s not one to just “hand out” stress leave though, so I’m worried. I’m looking into real estate courses, as homes and people and house staging are my passion. Not sure if this is a normal mid-life crisis (I’m 39) but I would love even 4 or 6 weeks off the re-charge and re-focus. I hope things are better for you, and thanks again for the inspiration to do something positive during hard times.

    Reply

  13. jayne

    Hi, just read your blog and replies, I have just been to doctors this morning, I am british by the way, he was very sympathetic, and told me he thought I should be signed off work with stress.
    I am in fact ” only” a receptionist in a doctors surgery, but having suffered with depression in the past, didn’t want to go off sick with stress. Now I realise its my employees fault!! Not mine. I want to leave, my personality is changing because of stress at work. I’m 50, but young at heart, and would just like to be happy at work. Love to you. Xx

    Reply

    1. Amanda

      Hi Jayne,
      If you can, I highly suggest taking the time off. I feel like “me” again after years of being slowly chipped away at by my last employer. I was very hesitant to take the time off, but now I realize it was the best thing I could have done for myself, and I’m very strongly advocating for others to do the same.
      Do they offer sick leave benefits either through your employer or through the Government? Or something to help you out financially while you’re off work? Unfortunately, finances can become a pretty big stressor itself if you do take the time off and don’t have “a plan”.
      Best of luck, and feel free to ask me anything!
      ~ Amanda

      Reply

  14. Lorraine

    Wow – as I read through all this, I feel that I am not alone in this world full of stress. I work for a provinically funded program for 6 years now. Loved my job until this pass year…..now I am finding it harder and harder to get out of bed and go to work. I actually look forward to having a migraine, because now I could have a day off from there.
    After numberous physically ailments, the doctor has taken me out of work for 2 weeks and life is starting to look ok. However, its the though of going back today for a follow up appt and learning what the future holds for me. Do I take more time off, knowing that life will be hell when I go back to work, or do I jump back into work mode and be miserable but have money coming in???
    Its a wait and see game at this point. I have never been unemployed in over 30 years, let alone on a sick leave for stress…………….me I can handle anything – or so I thought…….but I agree, my health is more important then money or a job. Something good will come out of this – I will have me back…..the fun, happy go lucky girl who loves life and people.
    Wish me luck, and thanks for sharing your story.

    Reply

    1. Amanda

      Hi Lorraine,

      Sorry to hear about your struggles and health issues.

      If you are off work for a medical reason (and stress is a medical reason), with a doctor’s note, you can apply for Sickness Benefits through E.I. Does your employer offer any sort of short term leave benefits or allowance? Look into that first. If not, Sickness Benefits may be worth looking into. You basically fill out an application, submit an ROE, and then you can collect 55% of your income for up to 15 weeks. It’s not a lot money, but it’s better than nothing if money is what’s holding you back.

      Hope things get better for you!

      Reply

  15. rocky

    Workplace stress is a common issue
    i have just mine on stress leave and am considering work cover if i do not recover beyond the 12 week mark .
    I am a manager in.mental health and the stigma around leave for stress is rife in my workplace. I was so stressed one day at work i forgot what day if the week it was. Before i returned to my office this manager told everyone
    they were giggling as i walked past their desks. I found this manager with another laughing angle mocking me.
    Would have asked the person if they were ok not made fun of them.
    This same manager is now in my role whilst i am on leave. She has told manager i am.not coming back that i have planned this leave.
    Remember all people get stressed it doesn’t matter if you are the on ground staff ire the big bignore boss.
    And the many workplaces have no empathy for their workers on leave even mental health services.
    But you and only you can look after your health and it takes a brave person to step out of role and work on their recovery. I have worked 10 years in my current role and six weeks down the track still no email,card,phone call all of which i wouldhave given to the 35 people in my regional team.

    Reply

    1. Amanda

      Hi Rocky,

      Thanks for sharing your insights! I’m sorry to hear that things aren’t going well for you. And that manager is AWFUL. That’s so unprofessional, and breaks all sort of confidentially policies, I’m sure.

      I hope you are doing what you need to do to take care of yourself, and to improve the work situation.

      Reply

  16. Jack

    Hi Amanda,

    I’m going through a lot of work stress. Not that I don’t get along with co workers but it’s mainly due to me doing a job that i originally didn’t sign up for. It was forced upon me and i had no choice as the company was sponsoring my residency application.

    I’ve approached management/senior management/HR about getting back into the job i want to do….to follow the career path i want to follow. I’m promised everything but they never follow through. It’s been 3 years now.

    On top of all of this i have a lot of personal stresses. I got involved in a business venture with a good friend who happened to run off with my money. Now i’m trying to deal with the debt as well as trying to figure out how to sue her. This has taken a toll on me.

    I recently lost my girlfriend and found out she got married to someone just a few months after we broke up. So that’s also emotionally affected me.

    I moved from the UK. I live alone with no family here. All family lives in the UK so I’m contemplating whether it’s a good idea to take stress leave and go home for a few months.

    I’m concerned that when i return i will be seen differently…..not apart of the team etc. so i will probably have to leave. I also hope this doesn’t jeopardize me looking for work else where as I don’t know if this kind of stuff gets found out by other potential employers.

    Any advice would greatly be appreciated.

    Thanks.

    Reply

    1. Jack

      Advice from others would also be greatly appreciated.

      Reply

      1. Julie

        How did it go Jack?

        Reply

    2. Amanda

      Hi Jack,

      I’m sorry to hear about all the crap you’re dealing with! That is a lot for someone to go through, only made harder by not having support people (family) around you.

      Are you in Canada? I’m not sure if this is true for the US or not, but in Canada, you do NOT have to tell your employer why you taking a medical leave. The note from your doctor (which you will need) should NOT list any specifics either. Mine said something like “I saw Amanda on June 4th and determined that she is unable to work until September 1st” and nothing more specific. If your employer asks you do NOT have to tell them – it is also illegal for them to ask. So that should help if you do decide to take a leave, and shouldn’t impact you looking for a new job at all.

      If you were to apply for Sickness Benefits through Employment Insurance (again, assuming you are in Canada), you can’t leave the country. I’m not even sure if you qualify for this because you are not a resident, though. So if you are able to support yourself financially in the time off, then this isn’t even a factor.

      If this job is not what you want, and you don’t have family where you are – why are you staying?

      If you’d like to continue this privately, please email me mylifeiguess @ gmail . com

      Let me know if I can help in any way!

      Reply

  17. Melissa

    So glad I stumbled upon this. These are the exact things that have been swirling around in my head for the past few months. I am a teacher in a Special Education classroom. You’d think its because of the students that I’m thinking about stress leave? Well, no, its the adults I work with! My teaching assistance have pitted themselves against one another, leaving me to solve all their interpersonal problems. Then I get blamed for not having no good leadership skills! Well….how about people just act like adults! I don’t do well in conflict with peers. At all. It has triggered anxiety and depression. I am having panic attacks again, which I haven’t had in years. I loathe going into that class, because the environment is either awkward at best, toxic at worst. And its so sad, because I am good with the children. amazing in fact – even my assistants wouldn’t deny that. But I can’t babysit adults anymore. That’s not supposed to be my job. I feel like I need to take time off to re-evaluate whether I can teach anymore. But the issue is people percieve me as being really calm, because I bury everything and avoid confrontaton. So, I feel like people would think I am being lazy or faking. Plus, teaching jobs aren’t easy to come by, so there’s that worry. I just son’t know anymore….50% of my job I am so passionate about and the other 50% I loathe. Its giving me such highs and lows. I just want stability for goodness sakes!

    Reply

  18. Ali

    First of all, reading everyone’s comments has made me realise how many people are suffering from stress/anxiety/depression on a regular basis and having to deal with toxic work situations. I am in the healthcare profession, and if truth be told have been struggling for a number of years. Work feels ok for 4 weeks or so, then I get a migraine or a stomach bug or I just wake up and cannot get to work. I worry about what my work colleagues think of me, especially as so many of them boast about never being off sick. They seem so happy, their lives seem perfect. But it’s not like I am sitting at home enjoying my life. Far from it. Even when I am not at work now, I feel sad. I think I should have taken time off work to try and help myself, but money worries are constantly there and I feel like a failure. I compare myself to others and just wish I felt happy sometimes. I think the work has chipped away at my self worth to the point now where I don’t know where to turn. Friends don’t help much, I think they don’t know how to. It can be a very lonely place.

    Reply

  19. Gusto

    Hi everyone – I am based in the UK and for the past number of years, have been in a managerial position. I’ve always considered that I’m good at my job and get on well with colleagues, etc… However, there is not so much support from management and recently (what with some work I’ve been assigned), I’m feeling the dread of going in each day. My stomach feels as though it’s constantly churning and when not at work, I’m thinking about work constantly, feeling anxious when certain emails come in and “dreaming” of leaving, etc… I’ve had a couple of small absences however have just said ‘general sickness’ on my return, the real reason for the latest absence is how I am feeling. I never tend to feel like this, it is horrible and I don’t really know the best step to take. Any feedback very welcome …

    Reply

  20. Dilpreet Bhatia

    Stumbled upon your blog, while looking for solution to my problem, which is essentially what you described above. Its a very toxic work environment and daily stress, and something I dont enjoy. I have been listening to Eckhart Tolle these days and that has been very helpful. After carefully examining the situation, I reached to a conclusion that I am totally helpless in this and its solution can not be found in mind or by thinking or by planning. No.. sometimes you have to let go and surrender to life, surrender to the hard times and trust that this is not going to last for ever. This is not a solution to the problem, but this attitude helps to relieve the continuous anxiety and fear and stress, we feel. Sometimes we can not resolve a thing, but take your attention away from what job you are doing, to how you are doing, put all your energy and life into it, and if you believe that positive attracts positive, things will change. and better things will come :) Hope it helps. I am in the same boat as your btw.
    Dilpreet Bhatia recently posted: Buy ‘Raat Din’ from iTunes, CDBaby and MoreMy Profile

    Reply

  21. Tara Gauthier

    Both my boss and I have been feeling lately that we could use some stress leave, things sometimes are so bad at work. We love our jobs and it’s a small group with just the four of us in the department who get along really well. But the workload is so high and hard to manage sometimes, plus we both have a lot of personal issues that also contribute to our stress level that it is hard to manage it all at times. At least we get good leave provisions at work so money would not be a factor but it is hard taking time off from work still the same. I took two weeks vacation for Christmas which was a nice break.
    Tara Gauthier recently posted: Decorating with wall decals: Vinyl Disorder ReviewMy Profile

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  22. ms.

    Also, if you’re used to working a lot, you might feel guilty and stressed about taking stress leave… but a lot of people should take more advantage of that than they do.

    Reply

  23. Jeanine

    Hi Amanda,

    Your story definitely struck a chord with me! All of these feelings are things I have been going through as of late and I am stressed out about possibly going on stress leave. I am a manager and a financial institution and have not liked my job for a very long time…I just recently had a week off and went to Mexico and the minute I walked through the doors at work, my back and neck seized up. My story does have a few reasons why this stress has caught up with me now; my brother was murdered in 2010 and since then I have been non stop with school and work (it happened partway through my second to last semester of university). I was the strongest person in my family and always felt that I couldn’t “fall apart” because he would want me to be strong and keep my family together. I ended up moving to a city 8 hours away to start fresh and have met amazing people and I’m glad I have had this opportunity….but something always seems to be missing. Obviously my job doesn’t help and I feel it speaks volumes that I need to finally take a break from it all and finish grieving. I have constant anxiety about going to work and if I’m doing all the right things in my life, that I have forgotten about the person who matters most: ME.
    I am going to the doctor right away and I know my work covers my pay for 3 months so maybe that’s what I need? I definitely need to search for a new career and truly find things that make me HAPPY because I’m getting sick and tired of pleasing everyone else!
    Sorry I’m probably blabbing at this point but I want to thank you for writing this article and to know I’m not alone :)

    Take care!

    Reply

  24. Paula Jewell

    Perhaps I am the odd man out, but I have had stressful jobs over the years. I have hated bosses, had bosses hate me. Worked with people dumber than rocks. Others so smart, I felt incompetent. I have loved jobs which I had to leave, and kept jobs I hated. That is life. I completely understand if you don’t like your job, and want to leave. What I can’t understand, is why they should continue to pay you for not doing it. You admit you have been looking for a new job, and that it would be a financial hardship for you to quite this one and THEN look for a new one. You really don’t WANT to go back to this one. So you are basically using them and the system so you suffer less. Meanwhile, everyone who continues to work there has to pick up the slack. Most companies don;t hire a replacement for “as long as you are out _ and god knows how long that will be”. They just re-appropriate the work load. I suggest the THAT is the reason people get pissed off when “stress leave” people are out wrestling sharks, or updating their facebook status every half hour. Not saying you are having an easy go of it, but you have now added an extra burden to everyone else. Even if the company is willing to have you work load covered without adding burden to your fellow employees, it still rattles me that you KNOW you want out and are just scared to lose money. If things are as bad as you say. Just leave.

    Reply

    1. Amanda

      Paula,
      It’s not a matter of being scared to lose money – it’s a matter of becoming homeless. There are more serious consequences to not having an income than just “losing money” that I don’t think you’re really considering.
      I know that many people have stayed in bad jobs or jobs they don’t like, but you clearly have not felt the stress and/or its side effects to the extent that I and others that have commented on this post have. I’ve had emails from people that have seriously considered suicide because things were so bad – that’s not something that can easily be dismissed by saying “that is life”. Mental health issues are very real – I doubt you would be making the comments you are if someone went off work due to a terminal illness. Well, sometimes mental health issues are potentially terminal too.
      In my case, taking the leave from work did NOT add a burden to anyone in my former workplace. I pushed myself to finish a major project I was working on specifically not to screw over my employer or co-workers, and made myself much worse by doing so. In the past, my position was only seasonal but they weren’t able to hold onto employees over the summer because of that. In the 3 summers I worked there, I literally had nothing to do for 3 months. So my taking the time off actually SAVED my employer money, and did not burden any one.
      And yes I did “use the system so you suffer less” — because that’s what it’s there for! I didn’t lie or take advantage of it – I needed it, so I used it. Just like people use food stamps, or shelters, or call 911.
      I can tell by you’re “Just leave” approach to this subject that you have never felt the way that I or many of the other commenters feel/felt. You should be very grateful of that. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts, but I don’t believe you fully understand the situation.

      Reply

    2. Carol

      This is in response to Paula, I understand your opinion as it is mostly correct. Some people use stress leave as a search time for new positions which is not right. Stress leave should be used to find ways to cope with certain issues that you cannot handle, rest the mind and try to find yourself again so you can get back to doing the job you love. Management plays a huge part in destroying people as well. You can absolutely love what you do then new mgmt steps in, triples workloads and demands you work unpaid ot on the regular. You do it to keep the job you love doing and the company you are proud of but eventually the body and mind gives without you expecting it. This body you once had control of now controls you and reminds you by chest pains such as you feel it is a heart attack, uncontrolled crying (which could happen in front of people you would never want to see you cry), sleepless nights, body aches, etc. This to me is a clear indicator to take a break and see if the rest and counselling techniques will rebuild your self to give your job more years. Ya sure, your coworkers take your fall (if you are in a company that will actually look after your desk while you are away, not mine) but they too will need you one day if or when they land in a situation. The amount of stressed out people in the company I work for is over half. Everyone is just waiting their turn to fall as mgmt hears nothing at all and literally watches everyone struggle. It is so very sad but we all just take it because we love the actual job we do.

      Reply

      1. Amanda

        Thanks for your thoughts, Carol. Sorry that you’re work situation isn’t better, but it sounds like you have supportive co-workers at least. Hope things work out for you!

        Reply

  25. Anonymous girl

    I googled this just now and got here.
    Reading what you wrote is exactly what I’m gong through right now, pretty much word for word, it made me tear up. I’m having so many physical and painful problems due to my stress and I’m not coping well.
    I think I need to take some leave and my doctors are behind me, but the stigma is huge where I work. Other people have gone on stress leave and I’ve witnessed all the gossip and nasty talk happen about them in their absence- and knowing all this (I know I shouldn’t care) but knowing all this, and then worrying about all the what if’s makes me more stressed.
    Sometimes I feel like I could just explode from all the toxicity and bullying there :(

    Reply

    1. Kristen

      I appreciate your comments. I have been going over and over the stress leave in my mind. I am in the medical profession and have been in this place for ten years, the place is just toxic. I have felt very alone with all the bullying going on. I will make an appt with my doc on Monday thank you

      Reply

  26. Bethany

    I am living with a family as a live-in caregiver. They are relatives of mine, which makes it harder. They are not sticking to my contract, I am far away from home as I live in another’s country and I have just received the diagnosis that I have situational depression. I’m resentful and unable to do my job properly as a result. My parents think I should stick it out for at least another month as I am due to start some antidepressants shortly. I am willing to give them a chance to work, but if the situation doesnt change, why should I stay?

    Reply

  27. A.

    My situation is so similar. I awake up with anxiety, I go to sleep using over the counter sleep aides. I have a knot in my stomach all of the time now, I cry at the drop of the hat. I’m emotionally exhausted, I have slight chest pains, loss of appetite (this is my most recent symptom, I’ve lost 13 pounds in 2 weeks). The thing is I’m the only one trained to do my job. I told my boss (the owner) and she said that she thinks I have mental issues not related to work that are causing me to stress out about work. I live in a small town, which means if I take stress leave she will go around telling everyone I have mental problems making it impossible for me to find work. So then what? We can’t live on my husband’s income alone and then we will be in financial ruin.

    Reply

  28. Paula

    We are so quick to help others and not ourselves. I am grappling with this right now, not due to an intolerable work environment, but my own anxiety. My husband is bi polar one and just went through a psychotic break and suicide attempt. 6 weeks later, after FMLA leave, it’s time to go back to work. I am beside myself with panic as he’s not in good routines yet and has very bad days. Dare I ask my doctor to put me on media leave just to try to return to some sort of normalcy? I’m scared, which makes me panic, which makes me immobile. Yikes.

    Reply

  29. Liz

    Wow! I was looking for information about stress leave and stumbled upon your blog…this is my situation exactly! Constant pounding headaches, clenching jaw (which leads to sore teeth) I am in constant muscle pain in my neck, shoulders and back, I can fall asleep but wake up later and then can’t fall asleep again, weight gain (wouldn’t mind weight loss :)) . And I don’t want to attend social gatherings or visit with friends-I have to force myself. My family also suffers from my irritability and frustrations. I am going to see my dr. for the first time this coming week to talk about going on stress leave. Like one of the other responders, this stresses me out too! Which then made me think my ‘problem’ is even bigger than I realized! What I wonder about is if the doctor agrees to giving me a note for stress leave ( do I bring in the form from the EI site or does he have them available or???) how do I approach my bosses with it? Do I just walk in one morning with the letter and say I am taking a leave of absence at the Doctors request starting on that day or ??? Having to talk to my bosses also stresses me out! Also I am going to school part time to upgrade some skills and I wonder if the stress leave would affect my ability to finish the course. I have one major project left and a two week unpaid practicum. I am so close to finishing. But I don’t think I can face too many more days at work. Any advice would be much appreciated!

    Reply

  30. DiDi@DoubleDebtSingleWoman

    Great post! I’ve been experiencing symptoms of burnout for a while. I’d love to take some extended time off, but that is easier said than done. You are not faking it. If you don’t WANT to be at work for any reason, that alone is telling you something…Good luck getting the mental and physical rest that you need.
    DiDi@DoubleDebtSingleWoman recently posted: Workplace Departures and Fear for the FutureMy Profile

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  31. Vee

    Hello Amanda!

    I just want to thank you so much for your post. I feel quite emotional now, relieved that I’m not the only one who has experienced what you described. Although, of course, it’s a terrible shame that you had to endure what you did! It’s unfair that the actions of others caused you so much misery.

    I, too, have been working in a toxic environment and have left on stress leave. Right now I’m terrified that my doctor will say I’m well enough to return. I will tell him the whole story if it becomes necessary but for now, I’d rather not. He would likely report to my employer that I need to be put in a less stressful work situation. My employer has a history of “accommodating” employees with these kinds of concerns, by putting them in different job positions so miserable that they end up quitting out of frustration.

    It’s hard to know what to do.

    Stress leave IS very stressful! I miss the way my job used to be, before things changed. I used to love going to work. I hate staying at home doing “nothing.” Yet, I feel guilty if I’m too active because I’m off sick. And I AM sick. But I’m paranoid that if I’m seen out and about that others will think I’m fine and that I’m abusing my sick benefits. It would be nice if I could decide not to worry what others think. The reality is, though, that I could actually get into some difficulties if word got around that I looked just fine. I work in a gossipy department.

    It gives me hope to know that others have survived similar circumstances. I’m going to re-read your post and the comments a little later, after I pull myself together. I’m sure some possible solutions will come to mind after I do. I am so grateful I stumbled upon your website and your post on this!

    Thank you, Amanda! I wish you lots of low-stress success in your life!

    “Vee”

    Reply

  32. Emma

    I have been under a lot of stress lately from many differing factors (work, university studies, my practical assessments associated with my studies, financial issues, etc) and am struggling to cope! I have two jobs both in disability support work which I love, but I am increasingly finding one more stressful than the other. I have been thinking about quitting the more stressful one for a while now, but due to the type of work it involves I feel as though I will be letting a family down who really does need the support. I am a key worker for them so chances are if I don’t do the work, no one will. I have seen a counsellor recently who wasn’t overly helpful, but I really just need some guidance and assistance at the moment.

    Please help!

    Reply

    1. Amanda

      Hi Emma,
      I’m so sorry to hear about the situation you are in. Is it possible for you to see a different counsellor who might be a better fit for you? That might be a good resource for you. I’d also suggest talking to your managers about what you are going through to see if they can do anything to make it easier on you. This of course depends on what sort of managers you have and your relationship with them, but it can’t hurt to ask, right? You really don’t have to disclose personal information if you’re not comfortable doing so.
      As for this issue: “I will be letting a family down who really does need the support” – sometimes you need to be selfish and put yourself first. Who’s supporting you?
      I really hope things turn around for you! Please feel free to contact me again – I’d be more than happy to help any way I can.

      Reply

  33. Michele

    So grateful to find your blog today!

    I struggle with PTSD and with managing the balance of work and self care. Insomnia is a nightly issue as are regular intense and intruding emotions/flashbacks. On top of it, I am in the mental health field and have also found little to no support from management…In fact I’ve encountered the opposite…corporate bullying and intimidating! Such a shame really!

    In a way, it makes me feel better to know am not alone in that I have a miserable employer, yet it is very sad indeed that we must live like this. I’m in the US and have been looking at job postings for quite some time and really think I’d only be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire at this point.

    I’m very curious to what you are up to now, Amanda. Perhaps you’ve blogged about it elsewhere and I just haven’t located it?

    Reply

  34. Darla

    Wow that was strange. I just wrote an really long comment but after I clicked submit
    my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted
    to say wonderful blog!
    Darla recently posted: DarlaMy Profile

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  35. Liz

    update from me…I did go to my doctor who put me on stress leave for at least 6 weeks for a medical condition (he said I didn’t actually have to disclose stress as the reason). I just went to my employer right after my doctor appt. and gave him the note with no explanation other than that my doctor feels this is the best for me right now. After 2 weeks of leave my employers wanted full details as to why I could function outside of the office (I was seen in town) and not at work. I guess they thought I should be on bed rest or something. After some research,I discovered that it was an invasion of privacy since I was not trying to access any extended medical at that point so they had no right to ask. My doctor then upgraded my note to give to EI that said I was to be on medical leave that I could not return to my present employers ever. His advice was that because I had been dealing with this for so long, chances are the situation at work wouldn’t change. Because of the original note I am on medical leave for 15 weeks, the maximum they give and because of the upgraded note I could qualify for regular EI benefits once my medical EI runs out and once the doctor deems me healthy enough to go back to work. If he and I feel I am not yet ready to seek employment after the first 15 weeks then there is no more coverage but if the time comes and my EI claim is still active (1year) then I can apply for regular EI at that time while I am looking for work. I have in the meantime quit my employment (I don’t feel they left me any choice really) and feel 1000 times better! It took getting out of the situation to realize how sick it was making me. The EI gives a bit of financial relief and I am grateful for it. So there is some help out there if you need it. The doctor ok’d my attendance at school to finish as did EI. It is nice to have support when you most need it! Hope this info helps someone.

    Reply

  36. James Cally

    I would suggest taking annual leave, having a break and figuring out what you want to do rather than stringing your employer on. If you’re not happy in the job, quit, you’ll soon get the kick you need to find something, it might be worse than before, you don’t know, but please don’t write such self endulgent crap. We work to make money, if you don’t think the payoff is worth the stress then move to a wooded enclave and self sustain.

    Reply

    1. Amanda

      Hi James,
      I have to disagree with a lot of what you are saying. If I (or anyone who has read and commented on this post) were in a position to take a year off of work, considering taking a stress leave would not even be a factor. We’d just take the time off. Most of us are not is that position, nor are we in the position to just quit. That “kick you needed” was there for me – I was spending more time at home looking and applying for a new job than I was working the job I had. Not having any income would have resulted in me loosing my house – I don’t see how that would have benefited me or helped reduce the stress I was feeling at all.
      As for your “self endulgent crap” (indulgent?) comment – first of all, I disagree. Second of all, this is a PERSONAL BLOG. This is where I write about “MY LIFE” (as the blog title strongly suggests). If you don’t like it, don’t read it.
      And not that I have to defend myself, but I wasn’t stringing my employer on at all. I purposely waited until a major project I was working on had finished before I did anything, and made sure that we were in a period of downtime so that they wouldn’t have to hire someone to fill in for me, or that my co-workers wouldn’t have to take on any of my work load, with the exception of answering a handful of phone calls.
      I appreciate you taking the time to read (sort of?) my post and to voice your opinion on the subject, but please don’t generalize or criticize people who are in a difficult situation and are trying to find a way out.

      Reply

  37. Rob

    I get it. Been down this road several times while working for a great employer for 29 yrs.
    Unfortunately, the people and work environment suck at times. In a big company, you can move around and there’s more opportunity. I have found that this can help, but when things get bad for you emotionally, it starts eroding your relationships at work and outside. Things tend to worsen. Change has been a good strategy for me over the years but it’s never easy to get the nerve to go there. I recommend it, but be smart about it and try not to second guess. You will learn a lot about yourself and gain confidence.
    Finally, since I feel that I can relate to your thoughts\issues (never wrote about mine though) I’d say, accept that we are not all created equal. Some of us struggle with things like you describe more than others. If the issues seem real to you, they are…so easy way out? Nope, and whatever support network you may or may not have, is only a band-aid, as they never completely go away. So it becomes all about managing. Doesnt mean you are defective, just different. Find your way to manage because you’ll likely be stuck with it for the long haul. It takes time, effort, change and some courage. Been there and still doing it….but it gets easier. Cheers

    Reply

    1. Amanda

      Thanks, Rob. I’m sorry to hear you can relate, but happy that it sounds like you are coping just fine. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment and share your perspective on this subject. You’re advice is very helpful!

      Reply

  38. Nelly

    Amanda,

    Oh my I read your post and I thought to myself how much our stories sound alike. Although, I think I may be in an even more toxic work environment. My immediate supervisor thinks she is Hitler and actually self professed that our unit is not a democracy but a dictatorship, lead by none other than her! I think that was the very moment that I became absolutely discouraged with the work environment. Since then I have watched her sabotage people looking for work outside our organization. I have seen her do so many vindictive and uncompromising things that I fear that because I have spoken out about her she will try and sabotage my opportunities to advance myself. I have been desperately looking and like you said job opportunities are very limited. I have danced the idea around in my head about a stress leave but also fear that I may be committing career suicide. Really trying to contemplate it all and it is overwhelming. However, it is not fair to my husband and children to continue to see how frustrated I am about work. My husband is tired of hearing about my dissatisfaction and like you cannot just quit because of financial reasons…

    Reply

    1. Amanda

      Hi Nelly,
      I’m so sorry to hear about your situation. Your boss sounds like a nightmare!
      Do you have any vacation days or sick days that you could use to get out of there for a little while? Or could you take some un-paid time off (like a week? or a month?)? It’s not ideal, but it will give you a break and you do still have a job to come back to. I don’t know… I’m just throwing out some ideas that might work because I know how valuable that time away was for me and I hope that you can take some time too.
      If job opportunities are limited, would you be able to make ends meet if you took a part time job instead? That is assuming there is something that interests you that isn’t full time.
      If none of these work, I would suggest looking into counselling of some sort. You may be covered through your work or there might be free options available if money is an issue (and I’m assuming it is). But a counsellor would be a great sounding board for you so that you’re not putting too much on your family, and can help give you coping ideas if you really are stuck.
      I hope things turn around for you!

      Reply

  39. Esther Veenstra

    Hi Amanda!

    First of all thanks for being brave and sharing your feelings and thoughs publicly. Doing so is very helpful to others feeling or thinking the same things but imagining they are alone in their state. There are always going to be critics and haters. They have their place too. Such as making anyone marginally less ignorant look really really good ;).

    I myself, am just coming to the personal realization that it is very likely i have been struggling with depression and anxiety since I hit puberty at about 14 (I was a late bloomer).

    My life has had a number of traumatic experiences since then that, up until recently, had overshadowed a sense of who I am.

    I am currently working a corporate job for a huge company in a very small satellite office. I am a team of three (two a types and me!) with a leader constantly looking over my shoulder. The job is very high stress with a heavy, non stop and very time sensitive workload. Even the tiniest oversight can result in massive problems. The hours are long…. I have always enjoyed fast paced and crazy while at the same time, problem solving on a dime but I have struggled so much in the past year while equally I have seen my work life balance go to shite. My mistakes have also gone up and my sense of efficacy, down.

    At home I am a single mother to a shiny exuberant 10 yr old who is very bright, inquisitve, and detail oriented. She is a perfectionist, highly sensitve to clothes etc, and likes to do everything meticulously. She also does not like change. The time shortage we face has been affecting her negatively. Particularly at school. I do not have any relatives close by so I handle all of the planning, caring, driving, activies, emotional support, cleaning, organizing, etc etc that is involved when there is only one person to do it. I am not paid well so finances are a constant source of anxiety and mental spins during sleepless nights.

    I feel like I never stop and yet I have an unmanageable pile up of things to do – oil changes, policy renewals, etc… and I am exhausted ALL. THE. TIME. I have aches and pains everywhere in spite of working out, taking supplements, and being a general health freak. On the outise I look soooo together but it betrays how I truly feel. I look like such a great mom as well b/c i am always ensuring my daugter is well dressed, well travelled, has the opportunity to explore her interests etc… i give her what i have and even that isn’t enough. She has cried to me numerous times in the past year stating that she feels she does not have enough support to deal wtih things she struggles with. I am left here with my existence. Which is in a constant state of nervous and anxious overdrive, and/or full on exhaustion. I have breakdowns at home nearly every month. And yes, I yell at my child (SHAME!).

    Then there was friday. I smashed my head on the wall. Daughter caught me and decided this was a good way for her to deal with her own frustration at her science project… a three week massive project – ALL work done at home. My worst nightmare. Seems so cruel when teachers do that. Don’t they understand there already is NO time at home! So… I went to the dr. Finally. Long overdue. Result? Medical leave, meds, thereapy appointments and some stern words on looking after myself.

    I have been seeing the light go out in my daughters eyes at times. I have been seeing her internalize MY emotional struggles. This for me was the tipping point. I am taking time to focus on ME so that I can be present and responsible to the ones who need me.

    For you, it may be harder to see that you need to take time to heal. But you do need it. If there is a problem the problem is a problem. The solution may be harder to discern. This is where a team of professionals comes in to play. I would go with the suggestion of your doctor. As for the rest, they will do as they do without your permission or concern so do not allow them to have a vote in how you choose to be the best you. You deserve to have the best life possible. Sometimes there are things in our environment that make our ‘best life’ difficult. This could be anything from losing a limb to losing a partner to living in a location with few sunny days. Sometimes we can changes these things, for example, a sour relationship, a negative habit etc. You are taking control of your life by making this decision. You are not allowing yourself to become victimized by anything or anyone by calling on the supports that are rightfully available to you. You will become stronger and wiser as a result and will be able to educate and help even more in the future. Shine on girl! Keep writing! :)

    Reply

  40. Katy

    Oh my goodness. It was almost as if I wrote this myself. It is EXACTLY what I have been experiencing lately. To. The. Tee. Every detail. The return of migraines, the brick of anxiety in the stomach, having good and bad days, wondering if I’m making it all worse than it really is… Everything you said is me. And it sounds like you’re Canadian, just by the terms that you’ve used. I’m Canadian as well. And I was worried about my supervisor’s reaction because of past issues as well. Not labour board, but just conflict between us. Our stories are amazingly similar.

    I just gave my boss notice that I will be on a leave for one month starting in a week. I could have even started today but I wanted to tie up loose ends at work first. My stomach is really hurting as I write this and I’m convinced it’s because it has been in a knot all day.

    As far as what I’ll be doing while I’m off, I’m going to be seeing my family doctor, my psychologist, and also starting a nutrition and exercise program. I’ll be working with cardiologist (I have heart defects), social worker, dietician, and kinesiologist. I can’t lose weight while I’m this overwhelmed but taking a leave allows me to slam the brakes, hit the pause button… breathe… And then I can start working on my health. That’s the main thing. I also plan on cleaning around the apartment, going for walks (if it’s not too dang cold), swimming (my building has a pool)… I’m not a very active person but I can’t stand the thought of sitting around all day in my PJ’s for four weeks.

    You wrote this a year and a half ago so you’ve probably already long ago solved this issue. I hope that you are doing well today, if you even see this comment. I happened across this blog post when I searched “what to do on stress leave”.

    Reply

  41. Sara

    Oh Amanda… I came across your post when I was helplessly trying to find a solution at 4:30 in the morning. What you have written.. Is exactly 100% my story and my tears kept rolling down as I was reading your story.. I feel terribly sorry for what you and other people sharing their stories here have been through.
    My Psychologist insists that I need to go to on a sick leave and all the scary what if’s that you mentioned are stopping me. I am frightened and things are just going down a spiral.
    Thanks for having written this. And a big strong hug from across the Atlantic.

    Reply

  42. Chrissy

    I know that feeling all too well. And as I was reading this, I’m actually on sick leave cause I am having some stress rash. Feeling guilty and anxious about returning to work, I had searched for articles on calling in sick just because of stress and anxiety. I don’t think it is wrong to have a sick day out when you’re feeling the toll. It’s the one brake that you have to pull to prevent yourself from plunging deep into something more horrible. But how many people can actually relate to this? Not many! And that’s why we are often misunderstood. My boss had actually asked me to work today even though I told her I’m on sick leave. This just raised a red flag that maybe it’s time I leave the job. I had only started on this job for slightly more than three months and I’m expected to spearhead new initiatives while keeping an eye on the business as usual stuff. It doesn’t sound fair to me especially when I have been thrown at the deep end where I’m required to run before I can learn to walk. Training wasn’t in place and a clear set of Instructions on how to carry out various projects were scarce. And unfortunately, while I try to figure out whether I’m doing things right through a medieval method call Trial and Error, I’m being penalized for having missed certain things and not doing them properly. This feeling sucks. I dread walking into the office every morning!
    Just like you, I question myself if I am being dramatic or acting like a spoilt brat, but I somehow concluded that life is too short to be doing things that stress you out most of the time. If you are feeling unhappy now, you most probably won’t be able to feel happy in the job at all. I think red flags exist for a reason.

    Reply

    1. Lucette

      You have just explained everything I am feeling so thank you for making me feel like I’m not alone!

      Reply

  43. A.

    I’m currently on sick leave due to a underlying mental health condition, which was mixed in with a toxic workplace environment/group of people. People undervalued me and I didn’t feel appreciated. I was undermined and therefore questioning why is it that I’m doing what I’m doing to the point where I felt incompetent. Any small mistake that I did would immediately be reported to the boss and we were confined to this one room. All women in charge and they were all friends. I was the new one. I feel almost anxious writing about it. I ended up calling my Union to get involved because I wasn’t able to concentrate anymore. The union said that it was clear that I was depressed. First of all this came from the president of the Union and I don’t think that it is her call to say what I am or what I am not but at that point I figured it would be best to take leave. I went immediately to my doctor which I avoid like the plague. She evaluated me (thank god otherwise I’d have had to gone to the hospital). And there were underlying home factors as well. My husband’s operation, my uncle with cancer, but the icing on the cake was my dad’s heart attack. Had I been at work at this time I would have had a breakdown right then and there. I wasn’t able to deal with all of the pressure. I get tense just thinking of it all. But now even if I want to switch careers, or look into a different line of work I feel that I have “black listed” myself. Who’s going to speak up for me because of my recent job performance? It’s not like I’m taking a vacation! I’m trying to get help and take the meds, go for counselling, going for massage but honestly I am most of the time if I’m not making appointments for myself sitting at home doing nothing. I don’t want to do anything and it worries me that if I can’t take care of myself, whose to say that I can take care of someone else? My job is very stressful. I’m responsible for others with special needs. I’ve had hit my breaking point and now just thinking of going back paralyzes me with fear.

    Reply

    1. FED UP

      This is exactly what I am going thru. I work in the health care field. I have had it with the abuse and toxic enviroment. I report incidents and I am told me be positive. The situation never changes.

      Reply

  44. Carl

    Omg, Amanda! Your blog feels as if I could have written it! I’m currently struggling in a toxic, girl-club, micro-managed work environment (I’m the only guy)! I’ve been with the Company almost 2 decades, but things got much worse under my new manager.

    I’m also dealing with family issues (mom is terminally I’ll, dad is impossible to deal with, 2 friends and a beloved pet died within a few months, another pet is sick, my brother is missing…. The list goes on.

    I was raised to “suck it up and deal with it”. Between that and socially instilled guilt, I’m struggling for the first time with a need to take “sick/stress leave”. I honesty feel like I can’t continue to work in a toxic environment while also being depressed about everything going on around me.

    I know your initial post was a couple years ago , but I sincerely hope things have come together for you . If nothing else, you post has given me the courage to take some steps ,if, for no other reason, I’m not alone in the way I feel… So thank you !

    Reply

  45. Anna

    Amanda – I could relate to your blog article about stress leave. I experience more anxiety as I age and recently took on a demanding job in a dysfunctional environment.

    I can’t give myself permission to take leave until I properly incorporate good diet and exercise into my life. Unfortunately, stress is sometimes immobilizing and that makes exercise difficult. I am applying on other jobs that look good. And trying to take one day at a time.

    Having said that, I know stress leave is an option and I would do it if insomnia and heart palpitations got out of control.

    Good luck to you in your situation.

    Reply

  46. Ray

    Thank you for this blog – it helped me make the decision to go on a leave.

    I too felt worse at first. It was because I was finally admitting something was wrong rather than just thinking about it. And I worried about all the worst case scenarios for consequences.

    A week into my leave I’m feeling much better about my decision and am seeing how necessary it was for me and my family. The leave won’t change the people at work but recuperating energy and hope will prepare me to go back to my job and to look forward to being productive again.

    Thanks.

    Reply

    1. Amanda

      Ray – I’m so happy that I could be of help to you! I know that the decision to go on a leave or not is a whole lot of stress in itself, but I’ glad you decided to do what’s best for you. I was very lucky and there were no consequences for me – other than a small hit to my finances. But it was worht every penny and then some.

      All the best with your time off, your recovery, and of course when you do go back.

      Reply

  47. Eric

    Hi,

    Right at this moment, I’m in the same boat as you were with regards to going on leave.

    The workload is killer, I’ve suddenly had to take on a whole bunch more stuff at work (new things to learn also), we lost some key people who basically got sick of the BS with my employer. They’re leaving in droves. Some are just giving notice and aren’t even leaving for a new job. Just up and going and taking a vacation to figure things out.

    I started hitting a wall back in April and asked for help. Management has no interest in hiring extra people to help with the work load. The work is complex and would take time before a new person would get anywhere up to full speed.

    It’s affecting my health. Exactly in the same ways you noted in your original blog. I go to bed and wake up every 2 hours sweating. By the time 6am rolls around, I can’t fall back asleep. I lay there looking at the clock radio on my nightstand till 8am rolls around. Then I walk into work like a zombie. I started seeing my doctor back in late April and have been back to see him twice since then. During that time I have taken 1 sick day from work.

    On the last visit this past Friday, he put me through a medical quiz. Pretty much confirmed I was mentally toast. When I saw him the first time in April he prescribed me a half dozen sleeping pills. Those are gone and he won’t prescribe more. He says giving me drugs will f-me up. Came to the conclusion I needed time off. He wrote me an unpaid medical leave of absence for 5 days. On the 5th day, I have to go in and see him again. Based on how that goes, he could give me a note to take off 5 more. I knew this was going to be an issue back in April, so on each of my doctors visits, I asked for a doctors note proving that I was seen and have accumulated them.

    I have accumulated holidays available. So many that I haven’t been on a full week vacation since Dec 2014. Problem is, Company is so short staffed, it’s almost frowned upon if I try and ask for it.

    I’m going into the office tomorrow. I’ll be emailing HR for a meeting. I’ll be handing over those notes from the doctors visits as well as the actual medical leave of absence note.

    I’ve been torn about it. I think of nothing else but work and work issues for the past 2.5 months. I to have lost enjoyment in my life.

    I’d like to go somewhere else, but the industry I’m in has recently turned hectic and I don’t even know if I want to go somewhere else doing the same job and then having the same issues there.

    I’m not worried about money. I have enough. My concern is, I could become complacent living on my savings and and negatively impact my marketability if I stay out of the workforce too long.

    It’s tough and I’m lost.

    Reply

  48. Ashley

    Amanda, I applaud you for being brave enough to share your feelings with the world. As I read your post, I felt like I could relate to so much of what you were feeling.

    There are waaaaaay too many things that stress me out about my work environment and my personal life in general, so I’ll try to keep this short and to the point.

    I’m an Executive Assistant at a medical practice and I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had a “good” day at work. From the lack of a parking lot (limited street parking downtown only, if you’re late, you’re screwed), the ridiculous workload, constantly changing protocols, over 30 people quitting in the past year, and very low pay, there isn’t a single thing that doesn’t stress me out about this place.

    And the past couple of weeks have been so awful and disappointing. My vacation plans were cancelled last minute (I really needed a break from work); I missed a couple of good job opportunities because they kept calling me while I was in the office, and by the time I got a hold of someone, the position had been filled; a manager had a short meeting with me about how I don’t socialize enough at work (I’m introverted, don’t force me to be extroverted! She doesn’t even know me well.); and I’m currently going through the worst breakup I’ve ever dealt with (it had me so confused, heartbroken, and stressed that I actually got physically sick and had to call in twice!).

    Even before the weekend is anywhere near being over, I already find myself dreading Monday morning. Every day is the same thing: wake up, go to work, get home, complain about work, search for new jobs, sleep, and repeat. My wonderful boyfriend was the only thing keeping me happy, but that’s been taken away from me too. I just don’t know what else I can possibly do to get rid of all this stress, so I’ve been trying to do some research on stress leave and that’s how I ended up here. I’m just so concerned about how it will affect my job. How much work will be piled up when I return? Will they end up letting me go because I already missed a couple of days recently? Will I be able to find another job during my time off? What if the time off doesn’t even help and I end up laying in bed all day because I’m too sad to do anything productive or fun?

    I know that everyone’s situation is different, even though so many of us here feel very similar. And I know that no one can really give me any solids answers for my specific situations, but it does make me feel a little better to know that I’m not the only one dealing with this kind of stuff!

    Feeling so lost and so desperate for a way out. I hope I figure it all out soon, and I hope everyone here who has been commenting on their personal journies can also find the right path as well!

    Reply

  49. Heather

    Amanda,

    When I came across your website, it was almost as if you wrote this for me. First I want to thank you for being so open and willing to share your story. I can relate to this 100% as I am also going through the same struggles. I just recently (today to be exact) started considering taking time off for stress leave. Like you said, with that comes consequences, repercussions, most importantly a huge loss of income.

    I also worry about all of the hoops (medications, therapists, psychiatrists) I’ll be forced to jump through before my doctor will consider me unfit to work. The reason why I feel this will be an issue is because I have always been very private about my emotional struggles, anxieties and inability to handle stress. However, my boyfriend of 6 years knows first hand what I go through, the people I tolerate day in and day out, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. The poor guy ends up being my emotional punching bag at times.

    I too work in a very dysfunctional and toxic work environment. Between the narcissistic liars, the rear kissing manipulators and the backstabbing complainers, 19 years later I am READY for a life/career change. I have not only used up all of my sick and vacation time, I am losing sleep, my blood pressure has started to spike again, and I have this constant anxious feeling in my gut.

    I do know one thing is for sure. No one should have to go through this alone and no one should ever have to just sit back and let your life crumble. NO job and NO individual is worth it and our health is WAY too important to sacrifice in the meantime! ;)

    Reply

  50. Steph

    Hi,
    This blog has made me realise I’m not on my own with how I feel. I am currently in my 3rd week of being signed off with depression and anxiety. I’ve had the worst couple of years of my life (currently being tested for a bowel disease or cancer, biological dad has appeared after 25 years and is a total waster who’s been in prison for some horrific crimes, a mum who disliked only me out of 4 siblings since birth, a large amount of debt due to having a minor gambling addiction (now over it) a job I absolutely hate that makes me feel sick at the thought of going back and have moved from a lovely isolated flat to a mid terrace house I hate that I feel I have to whisper in in case the neighbours can hear me!) None of this seems like anything compared to what some of you have been through but I don’t seem to be able to cope anymore. I’ve been having panic attacks which cause chest pains and had a minor breakdown at work that I don’t remember, I just got found on the toilet floor sobbing my heart out. I’m now being assessed by the mental health team and am booked in for counselling next week.
    This blog proves that it’s not just me, I’m not insane, it does happen to other people so thank you!

    Reply

    1. Amanda

      Hi Steph,
      I’m so sorry to hear about your situation, but I’m happy to hear you are getting help and working on getting better. You absolutely are NOT alone in this; if you ever need feel free to email or message me any time!

      Reply

  51. Jenn

    I just recently went on stress/medical due to a toxic work environment where it was only me and my boss in the office. It was so bad I wasn’t allowed to close the office to use the bathroom if he wasn’t there. Sometimes he was out of the office all day! I would come home crying everyday and finally said enough was enough. I am amping up my job search and had a few interviews however just wondering if I need to disclose the fact I’m off on leave. I don’t use my current employer as a reference either and that seems to put prospective employers on edge. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply

  52. Angie

    I feel some relief in knowing I am not the only one feeling this way. I have the pains, the migraines and I fainted last week I suspect due to exhaustion and stress. I have taking a leave at a previous employer and don’t want to do it with my current employer I have been with for 5 years now. But toxicity of my work environment, previous managers spreading rumors about medical conditions of myself and/family members, and just the negativity I feel when I am at work makes me nautious and overwhelmed. No positive feedback even if I am carrying my team with my performance, not allowed to promote to other departments because I have a solid consistent performance that helps my team look great each month. If only we could just focus on the job and not have to deal with the toxic distractions of the work environment. I have decided to seek counseling and see what options are available to improve my physical, mental and emotional health. Thank you so much for this post. I have been feeling lost, alone and as if I was just being too weak. Now, I realize I need time to rebuild my strength.

    Reply

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  55. Shannon

    I am glad I have come across this post, in reading it there were times as if I thought I was reading my own story. For years now I wasn’t exactly sure “what was wrong with me” as I had trouble it seemed the past 10 years or so with jobs I have held and wasn’t really familiar with what exactly anxiety was. I was boiling it down to my having ADD. I went on meds for that and of course they helped me finish school and I was able to get a lot done but I didn’t really like how they made me feel. I never said anything because they were “helping” me. I became pregnant last August and stopped taking them for obvious reasons. In February of last year at 5 months pregnant I changed jobs from bartending to an office job and something I thought I might be able to get use of my degree with and at first it was okay, I did okay, I was pregnant and only going to be there for three months before my leave so really, in this line of work, and after 3 months, I just really learned how to do everything. I work in real estate and title insurance and knew nothing about it going in. After I returned from leave things were still okay for awhile, but in December, they started making so many changes, partly to avoid layoffs and partly because other clients had more needs and more volume coming in. Well from December to January, I was one of the ones who got changed around 5 times, I had 5 different sets of 35-40 files for 5 different clients for about a week a piece. All who did things differently, all who I ended up closing real estate owned purchases on and all who I a pile of rejects for because I did something wrong or received incorrect info. Anyway my last team ended up being the one I was left with and within a week of being with them, they discovered that there were files being sent for about a month that we had no clue of, so in one day, I received 50 files for people who should have already closed, and the following days, my file count tripled. On top of that, we are expected to do the jobs of 2 other departments and are not allowed over time. Daily I go into 200 emails easily of angry buyers who insist then that I am incompetent because they can’t purchase their home. At the end of the month, its a numbers game and they push us to close close close as many as we can and I just do and don’t really know what I am doing. I am buried at work, barely get up to even use the restroom and its starting to take its toll and run into my home life and effect it. I don’t take care of myself much, I barely eat, and I feel terrible all the time. I take care of my son, and his father is supportive and helps, but my fear is that what if this overruns me and I don’t take care of my son as well anymore. I have always had trouble speaking up notestating what is bothering me , I get anxiety so I don’t talk about it. Those close to me know its there however, one can’t hide it too well once you reach a certain point. My phone rings all day at my desk and I get anxiety over talking to these people and going into the phone call blindly so I try to avoid picking the phone up all day. Then they call m supervisor or a co worker and if things weren’t so busy, I am sure I would get in trouble for it. I get paid very low, comparatively, and that makes me admittedly angry that they want me to do all this work for not much at all. When I hired on however and as I mentioned, I was 5 months pregnant and couldn’t be too picky. Recently I have been doing job searching and also considering ways to take time off work to find a new job and give myself a break but I didn’t/don’t know how to go about it. I don’t want to be whispered about should I not find a job right away and have to go back to that dreaded place. I get anxiety about the embarrassment I may feel. I know I am leaving out important things but I do have to get to my little one, but its Sunday and I am seriously contemplating emailing my supervisor and calling off for tomorrow to get into my PCP for a visit and a note. I put this off too long already am inpatient I guess, I can’t bare another day – I know my breaking point and its around the corner.

    Reply

  56. Diana

    As everyone else has commented, I related to this blog post in a second!!!!!!! I am considering taking stress leave and went through the exact same thought process! Would you mind updating if you did end up taking it, and how did it go?

    Reply

    1. Pumpkincat

      Seems like many of us are going through this

      Reply

  57. Pumpkincat

    Im on sick leave and im scared to go back. Ive been on sick leave for just over two a half months. I worked at my business for 20 years but a bunch of illnesses such as Tonsillitis and a stomach bleed that almost killed me. I went to the hospital for that. I ended up going to the ER three times in January. Everything changed for the worse in October. I was working very long shifts and getting in trouble for working too late because there was too much to do. I never clocked overtime. I did the overtime work for free. I started to get a sore neck and lots of colds and flus (im on immunosuppressants) in October and management thought i was too slow
    And and not “a fit” for the position so they made me a new “position” that in someways was no need for overtime..gave me less responsibility but took me away from my clients who i love so much. I wasnt allowed back in the dispensary so to speak. Then my Dr Quit after she was my doc for 11 years and she gave no notice..then in a town with no doctors accepting new patients..i finally found a doctor months later and because she closed up and i have all 440 undecipherable pages of my medical file for 11 yrs on pdf my new doc has to start from fresh.
    I started to get seriously ill at the end of december and really havent been to work at full capacity since january. I got called on Feb 4th and asked to go on sick leave. I had to accept or threaten being fired. Now im at that crucial time where do i go back now (im not emotionally ready)? Do i go back after being on long Term Disability (i havent applied yet because of scared of preexisting conditions)? Do i wait to get fired? Or do i resign with a doctors note and try for EI..CPP..Or just any other job as long as its not that one.

    I understand totally this what you have been going through. Im there with you.

    Reply

  58. Anthony

    I am really glad I found this site. We all seem to have similar issues. Some worse then others off course. For me I hit a wall a couple weeks ago and have never experienced this level of stress before. Being like this is horrible and would not wish this on anyone. Most of my energy and concentration is spent trying to look like nothing is bothering me, when it is quite the opposite. Somehow my brain has twisted things around to the point where I believe I am letting my wife and young daughter down by admitting I am struggling and that taking sick days makes me feel like I am running from problems and this somehow makes my family worse off. I know this is not true and all sounds odd, but it is the way my brain is processing this event.
    However, after reading all the posts it is apparent many of you are dealing with harder situations and for longer periods of time and are still fighting. So in a weird way your stories have given me some hope, mostly because I now see there are many feeling this way.

    Reply

    1. Kat M

      Hey Anthony – I just wanted to tell you that in no way are you weak. You are quite a bit younger than I am, but I can tell you uncontrolled stress kills people. PLEASE take care of you and be around for your family and to watch your daughter grow up. You WILL get through this. I have used all of my sick leave this year – and before I got this job, at my last job, I took 2 sick days in three years. I KNOW there is something wrong with my work environment and it is NOT me. You are taking sick days to protect yourself – your heart might be arguing with you about it because HEY – strong people don’t take sick days unless they are getting chemo – right? – but your brain is telling you that something is wrong and you have to change it. I know it’s not easy – but you’ll figure it out. Take care of you!

      Reply

  59. Katerina

    I’m sad to hear that so many of us are experiencing similar situations, but I’m also glad that there are others who understand what I’m going through. It’s very comforting. I’ve been dealing with anxiety since my early 20s, and it’s come and gone in waves. However, since I turned 40 six years ago, things have become progressively worse. I have been through many difficult situations (personal and work), and I think it finally caught up with me about a year and a half ago. In 2009, I experienced, for the first time, palpitations that would wake me up at night during dream state. I also had an increase in anxiety and would end up in the hospital as a result. But somehow I managed to get better through working with my doctor, a naturopath, a chiropractor and a personal trainer. I felt that getting myself healthy was the trick, and it really did help. The anxiety and palpitations subsided, and I was able to live a better life. Unfortunately, almost two years ago, I started waking up every night again with my heart pounding and racing, and have ended up in the ER more times than I care to count (even while on vacation). Most nights, I manage to keep my anxiety at bay, but there are times when it’s too much and fear takes over, and I’m once again dialing 911. My depression has also ramped up. Like you, I have good days and bad days, but the bad outnumber the good, unfortunately. I also struggled for over a year about taking medical leave and finally reached a point where I knew that if I didn’t take time to care for myself, things would get much worse. There are people at work who care about me and have expressed their concern, and I’m grateful for that. But management will always think about the company first and how my time away affects the order of things. It’s just the way it is. So, at the end of the day, we need to take care of ourselves first like they take care of business first. And as far as I’m concerned, people’s health is more important than business and money.

    Reply

  60. Kat M

    I am so glad that I found this article – I could have written most of it myself. I have been stressed at work since the arrival of a new supervisor in February 2015. To say she is a micro-manager doesn’t begin to cover it. She perpetuates and causes drama and discord. Some employees don’t even talk to each other – and I have to say I have at least one employee who won’t speak to me at all since January of this year, all over something minor that this supervisor could have nipped in the bud. We even had an incident last year where one unstable employee accused another employee of trying to run her down and kill her in the parking lot – a complete and total fabrication – but here we are a year later, and the State District Attorney is even involved – and the 11 year veteran of our department has been run through the mud and muck by a crazy person – and this supervisor allowed this to happen. Well, no point going into my entire story – it would literally fill a book. But this article is my situation, put into words. I’ve been saying the same things – “it was just a bad day, week, month” – but that 11 year veteran of the department, one of my friends here, reminded me a couple of weeks ago just how long I’ve been dealing with a very bad situation. I’ve always had back spasms, but they were few and far between until the past year and now the happen regularly. I’ve had inexplicable neck pain and horrible headaches at the end of the work day – and I am usually blessed by seldom getting headaches. Well, I used to be blessed. I also have chronic diarrhea almost every day – something else I’ve never had to deal with. My current counselor that I’ve been seeing since May wanted to put me on stress leave the first time I saw her, because I walked into her office, sat down, and burst into tears. I have driven to work crying – and I have been awake entire nights fretting about work. I hardly sleep anymore. Who the hell should EVER have to go through something like this for a job?? I missed last week because my back pain immobilized me for days. I do have an actual physical problem with my back now – a bulging disc and osteoarthritis – but compounded with the stress, I fear I may find myself completely immobilized one day – all because I have a supervisor who has the mentality of a toddler and no business supervising anyone. And I sit right in front of her office and another employee’s office and the two of them are literally driving me insane. YES – I am worried about money. My state has a 60 day waiting period to draw short term disability – and I used to live in California where there was only a 7 day waiting period. But somehow I have to get through this. I’m going to make an appointment to talk to the department director about all of these issues when I’m on leave – and I will tell her I am NOT returning to that office with that dreadful environment – and see if she cares – or not. And I have put in 40 applications with the State since January and endless other outside applications and I just have to BELIEVE that I’ll find a place where I belong, where the word TEAMWORK is not just a word, but a vision of how the work environment should always be. Thanks for listening.

    Reply

  61. WinterSky

    I live in Manitoba and work for an insurance company…. I’ve been there for 15 years and it used to be really bad for me (crying; anger; depression; anxiety). It was even worse at my former employer in the fast food industry (crying on the way to work; crying at work; calling in sick; thinking about ending it). I have this problem where I don’t quit. Things are much better now, but I’ll have months were I feel so low and almost beyond crying otherwise I feel hopeless. I feel the world on top of me. I hate my home and neighbourhood. I realize I don’t go out, my weight is horrible, I do nothing for myself….. etc….due to my anxiety. I think what is making me not die so much inside is my young child. I always think this cannot be it… this can’t be what my life will be for the next 30 years…. 90% of what you wrote speaks to me. I have thought about stress leave so many times… but part of my problem is preventing me from getting help or even asking my employer about stress leave. I’m afraid of going to a therapist, a doctor anything. I even have an app on my phone that would put me through to help (my benefits) however I can’t even do that. Also, I don’t… because things seem to be okay right now… I’m not crying everyday; however, I know I’m not normal. I don’t do anything but wait for the weekend. I want to take some courses, move, lose weight, make friends, and earn more money. However, I think to get that … I need to take a break from work and get some help. I need to breathe. I really hope your leave went well for you. (Sorry …. in a rush.)

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  62. Laura

    I wanted to add to this blog since I keep googling my situation and this site keeps popping up. I so identify with all of this. I work in a counseling field. In 25 years I’ve only taken time off for vacation and physical illness (surgeries etc.). For the last two weeks I’ve been off for mental health reasons. In a nutshell, I was passed over for a promotion last year, now have to work under someone new who has changed everything, everyone at work bitches and complains and management is so busy with the day to day operations that they have not done anything to boost morale within the team. Everyone has been working non stop including me. I had two clients who were suicidal and one with psychosis in the week right before I cracked at work. Also before that all summer we didn’t know if my husband would find work as he’d been laid off and a family member took ill. All,of this just seem layered on top of me. I became so overwhelmed. The ‘breaking point ” day I lost it at work, I talked to my closest colleagues, told them (in tears) that I needed time off , apologized for leaving my work for them to do, and even though I didn’t have an appointment, drove myself right to my doctors office (I’ve never gone without an appointment before). As I stood In tears at the counter, the nurse asked if I wanted to speak with the mental health counselor since my docor was unavailable. Long story short, I’ve seen the counselor twice. I’ve already been off two weeks (most of the time just feeling ashamed of my meltdown at work and guilty that I’m not there) . So today after a longer discussion about everything, the doctor suggested I do some blood tests and the counselor suggested I stay off work for the rest of this year (so in total 6 weeks). I just feel so horrible, I can’t help but think I am overreacting but at the same time there is part of me that is so relieved and so committed to using this time to start doing things I enjoy again and find a way to stop being consumed by my job. My identity is so tied to doing a good job that I have lost all the other aspects of who I am, Now that we have new management and it’s not me, I have no control of many of the things I used to do (last boss was a good delegater so I did more than my job description but that made the job more interesting and challenging and I felt more important I guess). My relationship with my husband is great but I think he thinks I am milking it too. And maybe he is a bit jealous that he isn’t off work for a month. I just really want to make sure I use this time productively but I can’t shake the guilt. I also need help to figure out what I say when colleagues ask why I’m off. I am pretty sure that the rumor mill is flying already. I did them before I left that I had bad insomnia and migraines and was stressed. The irony is not lost on me that I work in a mental health field yet there is still stigma abound being off on a “self care” leave. I tell clients all the time that mental health is no different than physical health and if you feel unwell it’s probably because you are and you need to take care of it just as you would take insulin if you were told you are diabetic. I am clearly a hypocrite since I am having trouble taking my own advice and not feeling ashamed or guilty about it. I’m not sure why I posted all this, maybe I’d just like to know how others have dealt with explaining to their colleagues why they were away on leave. I already told three of my closest colleagues but I work with a big team and I’m sure many others will ask. I don’t even know why I care. My employer hasn’t cared much about me lately and I bet all my colleagues wish they could do the same. which they could, but I doubt most would. Okay , I’ve droned on a enough now….

    Reply

  63. Min

    I am on my first day of stress leave and I am asking myself all the same questions. I have the next 6 weeks off and I don’t have a clue what to do as I usually am so busy at work. So good to hear my situation is the same for other people.

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  64. Suzanne

    I am so thankful I have found these posts. I came across your initial post Amanda after typing in a search for how I am supposed to handle being off on stress leave (I was actually amazed that someone else had not only typed in a similar search, but that you had gone on to create this huge blog/conversation which has continued to the present day almost from 2013.

    I am on a two week medical line off work on “stress at work” and I realise how fortunate I am in that we have a National Health system whereby I can avail of paid medical leave. My sister finally convinced me to go and see my doctor and explain what was happening at work because up until then (last week) I like many many others on here had been trying to get my act together and ignore all of the symptoms namely crying several times a day, chronic neck and back pain for which I attend a chiropractor (for over 20 years) but it was the recent feelings of breathlessness and headaches that started to make me wonder if I might actually really be ill and not faking it.

    Like so many others I sat reading your article nodding my head thinking I could have written it almost word for word even reading sections out to my husband.

    My job is indeed hugely stressful I am a secretary in a special needs school in Belfast Northern Ireland, and part of my responsibility is managing staff attendance therefore I know exactly why staff take sick leave. I think I might be the first to state stress caused by work as the reason. Others have been off because of stress caused by bereavement or through physical illness. So for me it was a bit of hurdle to admit that it is my job that is making me feel I cannot cope with so many other areas of my life. I do not generally get sick and last time I was off was to recover from surgery.

    To say I feel I have failed is an understatement because I thought I had been successfully keeping all the balls in the air quite well until recently when I started thinking I’m just so tired and drained and not caring if something was incorrect and I got to thinking this is just not me.

    Anyway I could go on but as I have said I gave in and am now off and funnily enough worrying about who is doing all of the things I do in work has not been keeping me awake as much as I thought It might. I now have the huge decision of what do I do next and to be honest that actual thought stresses me out all over again but at last I can think about it without the same interruption from work.

    Thank you to everyone for sharing their story I know a lot of you found solutions and that has been very reassuring. Keep smiling :)

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  65. WB

    The best solution to workplace stress from a toxic work environment is to take whatever medical leave you have available. I have been out on FMLA medical leave per doctor’s orders for about 3 months. Had I not gone to the doctor when I started to literally crash I would probably not be here writing this now. Yes, I do find myself thinking about how my job is going to get done and do a little bit of work from home. So now with the medical leave to expire on the fore front I am looking a retiring – something which I hoped not to do but if I want to live it’s almost a necessity. As a result of the toxic work environment (bad people, etc) my blood pressure went off the wall and another health issue was severely exacerbated. Just want to mention I worked for a health related employer – no compassion/empathy for employees; work them to death; huge turnover many just don’t come back (they have just up & quit); others having health issues. And then they try to fire employees. So quite, look for a new job – but get out before your health is ruined.

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  66. Jen

    Hi Amanda,
    I’m also a 33yr old female from Ontario strongly considering stress leave. My fears brought me to Goolge which brought me to your post and every single one of your questions/thoughts are exactly the same mine. Couldn’t believe it the more that I read, my situation is exactly the same. Can you please let me know your experience while on this leave, and what happened after?? If you could answer the questions in your original post using your experience it would be so much appreciated… going to the doctor tomorrow night…
    Thank you,
    Jen

    Reply

  67. Al

    I have read through a lot of the comments here and let me start that I am on my first day of stress leave, I am still a little shaken by how it all happened so quick. My company and my new manager are very understanding, I was blown away to tell you the truth. My doctor and counselor have been so great in supporting me that I am somewhat sitting here thinking about it…. I hope my story is going to help people in similar situations, people might go like “hey I can relate” like I can related to the story of Amanda and so many people replying.
    It started about 10 months ago I feel, my current manager was moving over to another department, we had spoken about his personal situation and he was going through a lot. We got along like brothers, me being the older brother. We had a respectful professional relation that we both cherished. The new guy was a bit different, at least he wanted to be one of the guys as he always said, not realizing we also had gals and non-identifying and introvert and… well a diverse team that is all I am saying. He had a degree, so what? Needless to say, he rubbed me the wrong way. I have been a senior manager for twelve years, I was in middle management and I actually remember well how my career started, always been grateful for the opportunities. About a month in I asked about the status of some of the projects and was informed he was catching up and things were a little overwhelming. I offered to take some extra time to meet and make him aware of our team needs. That was not really appreciated, because how could I, someone from Canada with a thick dialect from The Netherlands tell him what to do. Oh, he is in the USA and I am like Amanda in Ontario, Canada. I had to listen to all the BS about Trump winning the election, I informed him that it is not correct to mix politics and work and that I felt sorry for him but that it was something we should not discuss in our one-on-one meetings. I started to avoid him, though he was my manager and I needed him to approve capital projects. I started to get worried, sleep less, around Christmas time we all met in the USA for a week of “brain storming”. Truth be told, we only met for two days and during that time he had the nerve to call me names in front of my peers, to belittle me during a meeting and actually yell at me when he had me come in his office. I started to get depressed, I had been depressed before, around 2011 after I survived cancer. During the vacation at the end of the year I felt like someone had ripped all my enthusiasm out of my brain and rather slept. I pulled myself together and went back to work in January after the vacations. My first point of action was to talk to HR at my company. Asking for some guidance, what to do and how to react after that disaster week. We had a call with HR and that manager. Yeah…. some differences…. Performance review was the next action where I was beaten to the pulp, pure revenge and I called his manager and demanded a meeting within the week to discuss this situation. I also informed my resource at HR but she had left the company so I got deferred to another person, sending her my notes somehow my manager got a hold of them and called me after work in a drunken stupor. Luckily I know how to record conversations on my mobile phone, long story short… He is demoted, why he did not get fired is because I think he has some powerful friends. Is have also filed a claim at the Ontario Ministry of Labour under the Workplace Violence and Workplace Harassment act and HR at my company is dealing with the situation. It is my opinion, and luckily the law is on my side this time, that bullying in the workplace should not ever be tolerated at all.

    I have a new manager who is much more understanding. I am still very careful of what I say. I informed him of the performance review and of my previous years where I had excelled and exceeded on all goals. Over the past three months I have been seeing a counselor, this helped tremendously as I can open up. My spouse does not fully understand and talking about the situation makes me anxious and I have had long sleepless nights.

    So that is the intro, needless to say that my depression and anxiety is making me feel very vulnerable, it has been a tough lesson in life. When my counselor started talking about stress leave I would not do it, it would show me weak and what the heck am I doing with my time at home. Well see, that is not what stress leave is about… Stress leave is in my case about me, it is about doing different things. I have gone through two months of cognitive behavioral therapy last year and through relaxation exercises. That is what I am putting to practice today. Go for walks, listen to shows and music I like. Checking in with myself, keeping a journal, meet with friends and this weekend is Canada day (150 years so big fireworks and the likes). I am on stress leave for three weeks, I am going back to the same job after it but I will never be the same and I am okay with that. I have prepared for this as good as possible, keeping track of my time, going to bed on time, getting out of bed on time and step by step getting better.

    It was not until I spoke with my counselor that I realized how bad things were. At some point earlier this year I actually turned my car and drove home, went to bed and just slept the whole day. More and more did I start to avoid being in the office, I felt that others did not need to see how depressed I was.
    I also started avoiding any social events, did not want to leave the house, not even for a walk! Much to my own dismay I started gaining weight. I am taking responsibility now, where if I had not done so I would most likely end up sick in a hospital. I already was diagnosed with AFIB and as I wrote 6 years ago I was in a much different place. My physician had a straight talk with me, told me that he was in full support of allowing me to take stress leave, he actually suggested even a longer period but the counselor said it would be best that I would even try shorter days for a while and with the new manager things looked less bleak.

    So here I am, my first day of a “forced” vacation, not because I deserve it but because I need it.

    My advise to people reading this is to seek help, do not hesitate to talk to HR and do not let people make you believe you are worth less. You doctor / physician can and will refer you to a counselor, there are employee assistance programs if you are lucky enough.

    Do not let others bully you, in Ontario, Canada, we have the anti-bullying legislation. It protects you as an Ontario resident against any form of bullying in the workplace and it does not matter is the person bullying you is not in Canada….

    I have learned to become stronger, still feel a bit off because I need to find my way again….

    Love and Light!!

    -al

    Reply

    1. Julie

      Al, I wonder how Canada managed to pass that? Here in the U.S. our Chambers of Commerce (business interests) are extremely against anti-bullying laws. So far they’ve done a good job of keeping it at bay, but I think I will be focusing my efforts a little on that issue. This should NOT be legal!!!! It is traumatizing!

      Reply

  68. Lin

    Omg I feel exactly the same, and the same thoughts and questions run through my head, so much so that it winds me up even more! It’s either career suicide or actual suicide, I don’t know what to do either… I don’t want to quit and become a dead weight for my husband and put financial pressure on him as we will lose almost half of the income. But I’m not bringing him positive energy everyday by being miserable myself, and it weights him down too.

    Reply

  69. Mike

    if it was only that easy to leave your job. Mortgage/rent payments, child care, car loans, it all adds up and makes it very difficult to just walk out. Plus the very difficult predicament of getting a useful reference for a new employer. It is a very stressful and awful situation in which to find yourself.

    Reply

    1. Julie

      Mike, it is stressful and awful. If anyone is in the U.S., support the Healthy Workplace bill. Ask your lawmaker to support it. That would help a lot. You can look it up on the internet.

      Reply

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