I have only 80 hours left of work, but should I bail early?
July 29, 2014 5:17 PM   Subscribe

I have severe social anxiety and depression, but I've been trying to work part-time with the support of my state's vocational rehab program. I have a natural exit point from this job coming up on August 27th, and I intend to take it. I don't know, though, if I can make it that long.

I work with children with special needs-- I've been doing it for a decade and I like to think I'm pretty good at it. The student I currently work with through a local preschool is leaving for kindergarten soon. I have been talking about leaving this job, and the working world in general, for months now. I discussed it with my boss, told her I would like to leave to focus on my computer programming (that's partly true), and the plan is for me to stay as long as my student does, then drop to 0 hours and be available for subbing.

I constantly worry about work and barely get anything outside of it done. I left my previous job for this one, also for reasons related to my mental health, but I managed to stick in there long enough to give the 30 days' notice they required and end on an okay note. I want to do something similar here, but I'm not sure if I'm going to make it without having a meltdown. I blow money on a taxi to work 2 or 3 days a week because I want so badly not to go I sit there paralyzed instead of getting ready on time, but hate being late. I cried after work today, and often have thoughts (that I have lots of practice not acting on) like "the only honorable way to get out of this job would be to kill myself". YANMP, and I have talked to actual mental health professionals about this. I only include it because it conveys the extent of my distress.

This employment contract is at-will. I intend for this to be my last job working with children. My mother has offered to pay my rent if I leave and I have a disability hearing in the fall. My partners have pointed out, and I have to admit, that the only things keeping me in the game at this point are my sense of obligation to my student and coworkers, my fear of being disliked, and pure unfiltered stubbornness. They've pointed out that this is one of those times where the only thing keeping me from what I want is me. But I feel like my stubbornness is my friend-- it got me through all my other jobs, and it's kept me alive through years of suicidal ideation. I know that if I quit this job, I am going to feel deeply ashamed of myself, and that, too, could bring me to meltdown. Though it feels far away, I'm so, so close to the finish line.

So should I stay or should I go?
posted by dee lee to Human Relations (23 answers total)
Response by poster: I should also mention that I'd really like to see things through with this student. I had to bail in the middle of the year on a previous student, and I still feel guilty about it 2 years later. These kids thrive on consistency.
posted by dee lee at 5:22 PM on July 29, 2014

Is there any way you could speak to your boss and say something like, you don't want to abandon your student but you're having severe issues with anxiety, and is there any way to reduce your work burden without disrupting the kid's life too much? The boss surely knows you're in vocational rehab and is likely to have dealt with this situation before.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:25 PM on July 29, 2014

Also: I'm very sorry you're going through this. Our brains can be real assholes.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:26 PM on July 29, 2014

Can you start to reduce your hours and transition the student over the next month? It could be a good experience for them to see that change isn't the worst thing in the world if managed correctly. Talk to your boss about this and be firm. Transitioning the student now can help prepare them for the larger transition to kindergarten.
posted by quince at 5:30 PM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

I agree that a partial solution (reducing hours) may be a great compromise.

Will the student have an aide in kindergarten, and is that person identified yet? Could you use this month as a time to split the work with the kindergarten aide as a way of helping your student transition to the new person?
posted by jaguar at 5:44 PM on July 29, 2014

So, what did the mental health professional say?
posted by edgeways at 5:47 PM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: They've pointed out that this is one of those times where the only thing keeping me from what I want is me.

But what you want is to see things out with this student! What's making that a struggle is your illness, not "you." If you need help, that's OK, but please don't feel like you're sabotaging yourself, because you're not. You're working really hard to do what you want and what you think is right (staying with this student through the natural ending point for your work with him/her), and it's NOT YOUR FAULT that this struggle is so tough. I'm sorry that you're going through this, but you're actually showing a lot of grit by sticking in there because it's what you want to do and think it's what you should do, and you should not feel bad about that.

Since August 27 is so soon, and you're showing so much determination, I do think that you can stick it out -- if you get help. If you're having trouble getting to work in the morning and that's causing a lot of anxiety, then maybe there is a specific anti-anxiety medication that you can use on especially tough days, and maybe you can talk to the mental health professionals specifically with tactics to deal with *that.* The paralyzed moment when you can't get read/get out the door is a specific problem that you can put a band-aid on, at least for the next three or four weeks.

Is there someone connected with your work (such as your contact with the vocational program) who you can talk to about having health troubles? If you think that would cause problems or get you a black mark, then don't feel obligated to do that. But if there is a specific contact or routine for health issues (at my university, it would be contacting the Student Affairs dean, for example), who can advise you on how to follow procedure and not end up collapsing out of nowhere and actually ending up causing/in more trouble, then that could be helpful to you (that was helpful to me, for what it's worth).

As for your partner, I'm sure s/he is trying to be supportive, but if what you want is actually to see this job through (and that's OK to want!) then you should just explicitly tell him/her that you want to see this job through and how you need him to be supportive is to help you do *that,* not to try and convince you not to do that. That goes for your parent, too, if s/he is part of your support system. If they're misunderstanding your needs, you have to just tell them straight up what those wants and needs are and how they can help. They sound like they're actually a very good support system and like you're in a good place in terms of your relationships and getting help, so I suspect that they'll be responsive and not give you a lot of pushback if you are up front and honest.

Anyway, tons and tons of hugs, I'm so sorry you're going through this. It sounds extremely rough. But you seem to be handling this really health obstacle in an exceptionally organized, clear-headed, and strong way. So please don't get down on yourself like you're somehow screwing up. You really, really don't seem to be, at all.
posted by rue72 at 6:08 PM on July 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, rue27, and the rest of you who have responded so far.

In answer to questions:

-My boss does not know about my conditions, because I set up the interview myself, doesn't even know I'm with voc rehab. When my absences were interfering with work, I explained I was struggling with premenstrual dysphoria, because that was also true. I don't think bringing up more conditions would go over well.

-My student will have a para with him all day in kindergarten, which I'm happy to hear, but it's a public school and this is a private preschool, and if they've even decided who that will be yet, I don't think I'm getting that information from them.

-My counselor and case manager have said they can't make that decision for me, and will support whatever route I take. Re: my suicidal thoughts, they've encountered them before and just want my assurance that if it gets serious, I'll follow my crisis plan, which I will. The professionals I work with through voc rehab are pretty dismayed at the idea of me leaving my job, and that's another deterrent to quitting.

-I already take anti-anxiety medications. I have a few stronger ones for really intense situations, but they give me the stupids big-time.
posted by dee lee at 6:22 PM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Would it be helpful to break down "80 hours" into smaller chunks? Like, "I'm going to stick with this for the next five days, and then see if I can do another five days," or whatever? (I know for some people that would heighten their anxiety, so if reading that makes you more anxious, ignore me!)
posted by jaguar at 6:27 PM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yes, it is true that that stability would be ideal when working with children, but life is not ideal. If continuing this job is going to cause you extreme, debilitating stress then create an exit plan.

It sort of makes me think about what gets discussed regarding how far to push your needs as a person in the role of a mother. There is a lot of pressure to do all that is needed and while the needs of the child (especially an infant) are obviously paramount there comes a point when the harm to the health of the mother is so great that outside help is required. Have you reached that theoretical point?

You can leave honorably, good people leave just ordinary crappy jobs ALL THE TIME, sometimes in the middle of the day in the middle of a project. Yes this child is not a project, but at the end of the day we are talking about a job, the child will still receive the care they need, it does not have to come from you.

Now, if you want to see this through, and can continue without harming your physical and mental health, then I say get support from your partners and mother. Tell them, "I want to continue, help me". Would a call in the morning help? Encouraging emails or texts? Meeting for a calming cup of tea? Brainstorm with the people in your life. Get out a calendar and write down those support events if that makes you feel calmer and more in control. Then try this plan for a week. How do you feel? If you do not see any improvement then I think it is time to get out for your own health.

You are a good person.
posted by dawg-proud at 6:52 PM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

As overwhelming as it is (depression and anxiety can be so debilitating), you will feel so much better about yourself at the end if you follow through on your commitments and stick it out. As a person who suffers from both (though less severely), getting out of something I really should have done while making me feel immensely better in the short term, has eroded my self-esteem even further. Following through on something that felt overwhelming and I did it anyway bolsters my belief in myself. So I do agree with talking to your boss, but do try to make it work if for no other reason than for you.
posted by cecic at 6:53 PM on July 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all for the encouragement. I'm sorry, I keep thinking of more I have to add.

The working conditions are not great. The big boss isn't very organized, and it's often that we're not paid on time, or don't know what the plan is until moments before. There's supposed to be a qualified "primary" caregiver in the classroom, who has either a degree or a certain number of years of experience. The one I was working with left, and said boss has yet to hire a new one, no idea when or if she will. And the place wasn't yet licensed when I was hired, which they didn't tell me. So while a lot of my problems with the job have to do with me and my health, many of them are also with my employer.
posted by dee lee at 6:57 PM on July 29, 2014

Best answer: I agree with rue72, it sounds to me as though you are doing a great job of deciding what would be the most upsetting thing (quitting before you've finished with this student) and now just have to work with managing how to do that, because it isn't easy.

1: Don't beat up on yourself for finding it hard. It is hard. That's it. It doesn't mean you've made the wrong decision, just that it's hard to see it through. If taking a taxi to work to get there in time is the best way you can cope, it is. Don't beat yourself up for that either.

2: Try to find some thing that can make it easier for yourself. If meditation or some sort of quiet non-ruminative time helps you, take 10 minute breaks in the staff room or the toilet if you have to, just to regroup and ground yourself again. If that doesn't work but chocolate calms you down, make sure you have some nice chocolate with you to eat one square at a time throughout the day. That kind of thing.

3: Just as you have a crisis plan for dealing with suicidal thoughts, come up with a crisis plan for getting through this time. Give yourself an escape clause if you can, so that if you really really really can't make it one day, you have a pre-prepared excuse. Allergies. Gastro. Whatever. And an even bigger escape clause so that if it gets beyond X point of misery and suffering, that outweighs the misery and suffering of quitting. And then quit. But sometimes knowing that you can go anytime if you really need to, giving yourself permission in advance, makes it easier to stick it out.

4: jaguar's advice seems sensible to me. Narrow your focus. Don't think about "I have a month left, how will I make it?!" but instead think about "I have 7 hours to do today, let's see if I can make it through that".

5: Be kind to yourself. I have terrible trouble in the mornings, like you. Once I'm up and started it's usually not so bad but getting started... wow. Anyhow, I've learnt through practice that bullying myself rarely helps. It can help to think of a reward (if I get up now I have time for nice breakfast!) or even just acknowledging, yeah I know, this really sucks. Let's see if we can do it. Sort of your inner coach.

I think you're doing fine - well, having a rough time of it, but dealing the best ways you can. Hang in there. And if you need to quit, that's fine too.
posted by Athanassiel at 7:28 PM on July 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think that's great you're on meds and have a doctor. Are you taking any vitamins, especially short-term?

A lot of the types of meds you are likely to be taking do cause absorption issues which in turn, create deficiencies that feature as a main symptom - you guessed it! - anxiety.

It's a nice little feedback loop, guaranteeing you'll never feel truly well.

I think you should take vitamins (google will tell you what common deficiencies are associated with your particular prescriptions,) exercise, maybe meditate, and do your level best to finish August. Follow your crisis plan of it gets to that (it won't get to that.)

Yeah. I know this is not the feedback you wanted. Sorry.

I STRONGLY urge you to get some bloodwork done to look for deficiencies and anything else treatable. Get a copy and double check your results.

Get the bloodwork even if you quit the job. You should not be living like this.
posted by jbenben at 7:33 PM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just take it one day at a time.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:40 PM on July 29, 2014

Best answer: I mean, yes, you should finish out the job. But that's assuming you are rational and reasonable about things. Clearly, you're not. And I don't mean that in a negative way. I mean it in an honest way. Depression and anxiety fuck with your ability to see things rationally and act in reasonable ways. No job is worth killing yourself over. Sure, you don't want to disappoint the kids or your co-workers, but they'll get over it. This shit happens at jobs. I've had co-workers just stop showing up. I had a guy under me who quit after we just finished training him. It's not something I think about or care about. What I am saying is, if you do decide to quit early, you shouldn't freak out about it. I know saying it and feeling it are very different, but seriously, you are allowed to do what's best for you.

As for making it through the job, maybe you can say you've been experiencing some hardship (or something vague but serious) and you might only be able to come in x days a week. Would it be easier to come in 2-3 days a week? Or would having a day off make it harder to push yourself to go in? Are Mondays harder or easier for you than, say, Friday? Something to think about.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:45 PM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was harsh in my first answer to you, I apologize.

I'm afraid my point got lost.

The first part of AppleTurnover's answer is EXQUISITE!

I can't Nth it enough!!

Look. I'm concerned that you are on meds, have care, and are still falling apart. I've really really been there.

My breakthrough came when I got a lot more discerning about the care I was receiving.

If I had known that every doctor is really very different, that every doctor misses stuff they are not familiar with, even when the cause is obvious, man!!

In your case, it's well known that pharmaceuticals cause vitamin deficiencies, but it's not the popular solution to cure that when another pill can be prescribed, often prolonging healing.

In my case, 25 years ago, ovarian cysts (fibroids, endometriosis) was not popular. I saw 2 GP's and 4 GYN's in 4 years specifically for my symptoms, and only the last one identified the cysts and confirmed it with an ultrasound only 45 minutes after I met him. 2 weeks later, I had laser surgery that cured all of my symptoms, which have never come back.

That's six doctors I saw for obvious symptoms for a common ailment , but at the time the diagnosis wasn't popular - and they all missed my condition except one.
posted by jbenben at 12:40 AM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have a few stronger ones for really intense situations, but they give me the stupids big-time.

This stood out for me from one of your followups, about using anti-anxiety meds. I don't know enough about your specific situation to know if this is good advice or not (specifically: do the meds give you "the stupids" to the extent that you wouldn't trust yourself to work safely with special-needs children?), but one thing I'm learning in the middle of my own latest "what does too depressed to work actually look like?" situation is that it's completely okay to phone it in sometimes, and just turn up and do the best you can.

For me, a lot of my anxiety around going-to-work-whilst-mentally-ill lies in the image I've constructed of myself (which I can usually more or less live up to when my brain isn't imploding) as someone who is immensely energetic, motivated, productive and engaged at work. The fear of showing up and other people realising (and me knowing) that I'm nowhere near my best makes my thoughts start spiralling towards "but what if literally everyone I respect and admire and trust starts thinking I'm totally incompetent and I inevitably lose any respect anyone ever had for me and get fired". Telling myself that it's okay to just turn up and do the best I can - even if that's really not much - has been helpful.

I'm not saying that you should do this or that this is necessarily the best option for you, but if you do decide to keep working until the end of August, could you use the stronger anxiety meds to get yourself out of the door and try to be okay with the fact that, no, you're not going to be at your best at work that day, but that that's completely acceptable and it doesn't mean that you're disappointing anyone or failing?

Apologies if this really wouldn't work in your situation, it just struck a chord for me and some work-and-brain-related stuff I've been going through lately. I'm really sorry that you're going through this, and I hope you find a way to get yourself to a better place.
posted by terretu at 2:53 AM on July 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Self-esteem comes from conquering obstacles. I think you will derive self-esteem from finishing to the natural end point. But lower your standards for your last month. For example, allow yourself to be late in the morning, up to a limit (e.g. 30 minutes). Yes, it's non-ideal to be late, but at least you showed up. Also allow yourself to take the strong meds that bring on "the stupids".

If the disorganized big-boss gives you a last-minute plan, allow yourself to only do a half-assed job on this sudden plan. If you're struggling due to the absence of a primary caregiver, allow the classroom to get rowdy and out of control, without blaming yourself.

In other words, finish out August even if you end up doing a "C" job at it. That's still better than quitting. Right now it seems like you're determined to do an "A" job, and you'd rather quit than just deliver shoddy work performance.

I've had jobs that made me unhappy, and I allowed myself to do a less-than-great job during the worst times while I was looking for a new job, even though I wasn't even struggling with the difficult issues that you are. It turns out the supervisors at those jobs were still happy that I stuck it out, and what I thought was a mediocre performance was still fine by them.

But to use an analogy, in this case you'll feel better having "graduated" even if your last month was a "C", than dropping out one month before graduation because you can no longer maintain an "A" performance.
posted by vienna at 10:55 AM on July 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

I tried sticking out a contract when I had relapsed into depression, but ended up just with a breakdown. I explained I had depression and they couldn't have been nicer and more accomodating when technically they could've sued me.
posted by yoHighness at 2:19 PM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sorry what I'm saying is, I found people can be a lot more helpful than you may expect when depressed!
posted by yoHighness at 2:22 PM on July 30, 2014

Response by poster: I made it through. Thanks, guys.
posted by dee lee at 12:40 PM on August 29, 2014 [9 favorites]

Congratulations on making it to the end! Good for you!
posted by vienna at 5:17 PM on September 8, 2014

« Older Seeking a little patch of land under big skies   |   How to save the coding of an entire website? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.