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):
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.