Don't want to be around kids; should I find a new job?
April 26, 2016 11:49 AM   Subscribe

I am in therapy for abuse and find being around kids really upsetting for some reason. It's an essential part of my job, though; should I quit? Or are there strategies for this?

I am currently in therapy for sexual abuse when I was a child. I knew about the abuse, it's nothing new, but I never talked about it before. I'm taking time off work for mental health care but I have to go back at some point.

Right now I find it impossible to be around children. It just rattles my nerves and I keep thinking about things I never wanted to think about again, and sets off a whole chain of thoughts. I feel very disconnected from and sometimes even angry at my child self. I'm working on that in therapy, but progress is slow.

My job involves working with children and, while I'm not always around them, I'm always having to be totally surrounded by children's books, etc. Maybe I've preferred jobs like this because I wanted to protect kids like I was. But now I'm just feeling like I can't do it any more.

It's not a professional job or anything, and I don't need "career" advice. I guess I want to know if these feelings of not tolerating being around children and stuff related to children will go away, if there are strategies to manage them, or if I should just quit and do something different.
posted by fair isle sock to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like a question to ask your therapist, if you haven't already. It's kind of an ideal therapy question because there's a defined problem, a clear goal, and you need help building the toolkit to get from here to there.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:51 AM on April 26, 2016 [8 favorites]

I guess I want to know if these feelings of not tolerating being around children and stuff related to children will go away, if there are strategies to manage them, or if I should just quit and do something different.

No one here can answer that, and not even a professional can answer that conclusively. But if you want those feelings to go away and are willing to work at it, make it clear to your therapist that this is a goal for you and you want to work toward that goal. There's different sorts of therapy types that deal with mental health triggers and, again, if you work at it, these bad thoughts and moods and feelings may subside.
posted by griphus at 11:58 AM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

If it's not a professional career track, find another job that doesn't have you around kids. If you had invested time and money into education/training for a specific kid-related career, I'd recommend working with your therapist to manage the situation. But, if it's a job that you're not heavily invested in career-wise, just make things easier on yourself and find something that won't be a problem for you. You don't have to force yourself into difficult situations while you're processing your trauma. If you can make life adjustments to make it easier for yourself, do it. You can also go back to working around kids when you feel ready, but it doesn't sound like you're ready now (not at all unusual since you've just recently started therapy for this).
posted by quince at 12:04 PM on April 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you feel you need to make a decision about your job right now--but since you are on leave at the moment, can you give yourself permission to delay that decision until you've done more therapy? Sometimes feeling pressure to decide just adds to the stress and can make healing harder. Can some of the pressure to decide be taken off or delayed for a while?
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:05 PM on April 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

How long have you been feeling this way? Does right now mean "in the past week" or "for the past six months"? How much did you like your job before you started feeling this way? My advice would be different depending on what you say.
posted by phoenixy at 12:10 PM on April 26, 2016

Response by poster: I've been feeling like this for maybe the past month; it got worse the more I talked about the abuse and especially with looking at pictures of myself as a child. I used to like my job a lot; I don't have degrees/training invested in it but I used to have a lot of pride in my work.

I'm sorry; I know this is something best addressed in therapy and I am working on it there but I thought it was worth checking what Metafilter would say. I am feeling a little bit of panic because I told my boss I would be coming back in the summer and now I don't feel ready.
posted by fair isle sock at 12:16 PM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

A month is a very short period of time. I suggest you put the decision on the back burner until, say, two weeks before your expected return date.
posted by SMPA at 12:29 PM on April 26, 2016

Try a different job for awhile. While it's great that you want to protect children, they are very sensitive, and they may pick up on your discomfort. Go do something fun like being a bartender or a smoothie girl at a gym. Your feelings will pass.
posted by myselfasme at 12:58 PM on April 26, 2016

As someone who has been there taking a break is totally fine, totally legitimate, and completely healthy. Take a rest, regroup and know you can always come back later.
posted by Middlemarch at 1:36 PM on April 26, 2016

I agree with everyone else saying to wait, if you can, to make a decision. It makes total sense that you feel how you feel right now, but that doesn't mean it will necessarily last.

I am feeling a little bit of panic because I told my boss I would be coming back in the summer and now I don't feel ready.

Do you need to go back to work this summer? What happens if you tell your boss you need more time?
posted by lazuli at 2:28 PM on April 26, 2016

i had a job that was very much kid focused when i did a lot of self work on my childhood sexual abuse issues. it was really really tough, but i honestly think it helped in the long run. everyone's process and struggles are different but for me it was good eventually to have so much interaction with kids who were the ages i was as a way to lay the bedrock to really not blame myself. being kind to kid me got better as i was kind to kids in front of me, if that makes sense.
posted by nadawi at 3:14 PM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To give a little more explanation about my job, in case it's needed: it's sort of a volunteer/contract position where we work on a few discrete projects. I work very closely with my boss and they know I was in mental health crisis but not why the material is challenging for me. They said I could come back whenever I want, but I guess I am reluctant to be gone long-term because I used to really love this work and had a lot invested in its maintenance. Also, I have a bit of a tendency to quit things when I get too much responsibility, so I try to watch out for that. I don't know why it didn't bring up all these negative emotions before I was in treatment but that's what's happening now.
posted by fair isle sock at 3:34 PM on April 26, 2016

Best answer: it is super super common for difficult emotions, memories, quicker triggers to happen while you're actively focusing on working through the issues of the abuse and aftermath. i think one reason people are suggesting to keep close with your therapist on this and to stick it out unless your therapist suggest differently is because experiencing the tougher stuff is a pretty significant part of recovery. your brain is panicking and trying to protect you, but you're actively trying to change how your brain processes those fears and memories so it's actually keeping you from moving forward.

this isn't to say that you should absolutely stay at the job or go back before you're ready, just that you're not doing anything wrong by having this all so front and center and difficult. you're not alone in this. the fact that the job is hard right now is evidence that you're doing good in therapy and with your self-work.
posted by nadawi at 4:20 PM on April 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

This sounds like a difficult situation. It doesn't sound like you are wanting to quit because of responsibility IMO.

There's nothing wrong with looking around for other work opportunities and applying if you find something of interest. I find it's harder to make this kind of decision in the hypothetical, but if you go on interviews and then get an offer, you have real pros and cons of two specific paths you can consider and decide on.

Good luck to you.
posted by bunderful at 5:41 PM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

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