This will not be as brief as I would like, but in the interest of relevance to this board, I will try to leave out most of the unnecessary details. My story:
I am an only child. My father, whom I was very close to, passed away on June 1st of this year after an illness of about a year and a half. It was not entirely unexpected, but still much sooner than I imagined he might have gone.. While I was doing ok with it at first (took my requisite week off, got through the funeral, wrote and delivered a eulogy, spent a lot of time being “strong” for my mom…) in the weeks that have passed since, I feel like I have been slowly watching the wheels come off of my life one at a time, and have not been able to do anything about it.
The main issue for me at the moment is job performance. Or more accurately, extreme lack thereof. I have gone from being a normally competent, self-confident person who could take on new challenges of a diverse variety to a cowering, shriveled-up likeness of my former self that is scared of his own shadow. I cannot focus, cannot prioritize, cannot make decisions, and sometimes even feel as if I’m just on a merry-go-round, watching everything go by, but more importantly, watching myself and my career take a nose-dive that I’m not going to be able to recover from. In the meantime, work has been piling up, deadlines have been missed, and co-workers around me are starting to look at me with suspicion as to what-the-hell could possibly be the matter. Things came to a head with my boss not quite a week ago, and I basically spilled my guts, apologizing profusely, telling her I don’t know what is wrong with me, and that it must somehow come from what I am going through personally because of my Dad. It took awhile, but in the end I got a brief version of the “Well, I’m ****** and I don’t really understand, but I will try to work with you…” approach from her. The outcome of all that is still very much in the balance. I am in constant fear of losing my job right now, to put it mildly. My emotions range from anxiety attacks to crying jags, to extended periods of time where I can sit and still recognize the problems calmly and rationally – but simply don’t care and still take no action. This is not who I am supposed to be, but more importantly - nor can somebody displaying my symptoms function in this job long-term. I am an experienced professional in my field with nearly 10 years experience. I have a graduate degree. And this is by no means an entry-level job where I can just cut my losses, take care of myself first, and then move-on when I am ready, as I probably would have had this happened a decade ago. Or to be honest, as I may have considered much more seriously even now, if I had less responsibility in my life. I have a beautiful wife and 2 year old daughter to support, a brand new mortgage and very much increased mortgage payment (we moved locally to a bigger house on the day my father wound-up passing away). Also forgot to mention that my mother (who was virtually 100% dependant on my father) moved up here to a new house to be closer to my wife and I from their home of 4 hours away just a month after he died. So I have the added stress of caring for her in a way that will never equal what he did, and trying to sell an empty house that she just moved out of 4 hours away. Right now, I am mainly just scared to death that my “choking” at work may be only the beginning of problems so dark that I don’t even want to think about them. I truly don’t want to be a pity party or a complete train-wreck forever, but find that sadly - it’s sometimes the only thing I can focus on. Does it get better? I have all kinds of reassurances from my family and my wife that yes, while it would be horrible, they will still love me and everything will be ok eventually even if I would lose my job. I cannot bear the thought, however. I don’t want to let anyone down.
So where to go with all of this? I finally admitted to myself earlier this week that I was in a state of grief-induced depression and needed to get professional help. I had been talking to a Stephen Minister at my church for about a month, and while I enjoy his company and have a great deal of respect for him as a person, I realized that his “listening” alone was not helping me much. I consulted with my wife and mother (who has a 25-year history of clinical depression herself…) who were both very supportive and told me that yes, it was probably time to take the next step. Based on that, I went to a real doctor (MD Psychiatrist, the whole shebang) for the first time yesterday, and after spilling more guts and tears on his couch, left with a starter pack of Wellbutrin and a prescription for more. I just took the first one today, so I know that will take time, but I am hopeful about that. To the degree I am hopeful about anything anymore. I really like the doctor too, which is one of the few positive things I can say about this week so far.
My question - does anyone have experience in dealing with this kind of thing at work? How far to go, what to reveal (I have already revealed quite a lot…) etc.? Part of it that I think is so hard is this is my first experience with any type of depression. I’m 31. My mother’s depression was first diagnosed at age 38 and it has been recurring ever since. I denied that I was depressed or needed help from family and friends after Dad died for more than 2 months. I really just have no idea what happened to me from the person I was a year ago, but have to somehow put the pieces back together.
Any help or advice welcome, I am quite literally nearing my wit’s end I think – and I know my wife (while very loving and supportive, don’t get me wrong) is starting to think I’m really out there too…thanks.
I read your whole story and I can very much relate.
I am 38, with a beautiful wife, and 2 beautiful kids (oldest is 6). I also have a brand new mortgage. I have a BA from a top university and have been a sales guy for past 12 years, as I am fluent in 4 languages. I was laid off in June this year, and I finally admitted to myself that I have had underlying symptoms of depression for past 20 some years. It was a big relief to finally admit it to myself, but not much relief as what to do about my career. A sales person has to be optimistic, energetic, upbeat, always positive -- how does a depressed person like me can have those qualities to become good in sales ?
My mother has undiagnosed depression for as long as I can remember; so does my brother. My father is alive and healthy. My mother's negative effects on me has been gruesome, as my personal and business life took a heavy toll from her depression on top of mine. She constantly seeks my attention since I was born, as my father, although a nice and understanding man, can never satisfy her attention needs.
As to work, during these past 11 weeks of unemployment, I struggled to own my depression. I saw a therapist for 12 months before being laid off, and we just talked about my childhood, so I decided my money can be better spent elsewhere. I never considered telling my employers about my depression -- they are not in the business of helping people, so I only share my problems with members of my religious group. I am in searching for work that is more "depression friendly".
To overcome, I started taking daily walks in the mornings. I hate exercises, and never been an active person. But those 30 minutes of just walking did wonders for me. After the walk, I get my daily decaf coffee at a busy coffee shop -- seeing the people are hurrying to work makes me feel better. Then I come home to do my daily chanting.
I do occasional journaling -- writing the depressive thoughts always helps me to release it (actually posting them online to share with others even better). I also listen to slow, sad music when I am depressed (favorite is Pink Floyd). This routine has take away the despair that lurked in my heart for so long. I also changed my eating habits -- my meals consist both of quantity and quality -- I found that when I don't eat right, despair sinks in much easier.
I am confident that when I start working again, this routine will lift me from the depression.
Back to your story -- your grief must be expressed and dealt with. I like support groups rather than therapy or medication, especially support groups that deal with the specific subject that bothers us (your case, death of a love one). My wife already knows that I am "out there", she only hopes that our kids don't inherit their father's depression. If your mother was diagnosed officially, it could very well be that you have it too, but the depression never activated until the death of your father. I believe that it's not a matter of how much to reveal, but what to do about the situation is more important.
I know about the fear of losing the job -- but I finally learned, that the fear had a message -- that I must deal with my depression. I finally got the message after I was laid off, but it was a good thing because now I have become a stronger and positive person. Don't let the fear engulf you, listen to what it is saying and do something. Action is only way out.
I can also relate to how you are feeling gostros. I was ready to quit my job w/o having a new job and a friend advised me to look into a leave before doing anything drastic. Does you job offer any sort of leave? If they are big enough, they have to offer you at least 12 weeks off without pay (FMLA) if you have a doctor's recommendation. I went to my GP who wrote up a note saying I needed at least 2 weeks out of work and then he sent me to a therapist and pdoc who worked with my company's short term disability department. All in all I was off work (Paid) for 9 weeks and then back 75% for the rest of the year. This was January 2007, you can search for my posts back in that timeframe. btw, I still see the therapist every 3 or 4 weeks and the pdoc every 3 months.
Good luck, just don't do anything drastic, you can work through it all even though it's not the easiest thing in the world to come back from. Let us know how you are doing.
Thanks all. Things have settled down "somewhat" since my first post. I am currently taking 2 weeks paid leave from work under FMLA / STD. The goal is to forget about the stress of work for awhile and get my head clear. In the meantime I am seeing a new counselor (first meeting yesterday and liked the guy) and have plenty of little projects to do around our new house. While the idea of my taking time off of work did not meet rave reviews initially from my wife / family (to put it mildly), they are understanding and supportive of anything I need to do in order to get better.
Thanks for your stories and support. I am convinced that yes, action is the only way out. That's the route I am pursuing.