I need advice on what to do about work and my mental health.
November 27, 2018 11:14 AM   Subscribe

Struggling with my mental health due to stress at work and need help determining what my options are and how to best take care of myself without ruining my career or my finances. Live in California.

WARNING- This is long. I tried to edit but felt like the context was necessary.

I received a promotion 7 months ago from a customer service rep position in my company to a management position overseeing 6 physical locations and 8 employees. Mental health wise I wouldn’t say I was doing great before this promotion, but due to the low stress of my job I was generally okay. Since my promotion, I feel like I’ve been steadily deteriorating to the point now where I feel like I’ve hit a wall and can’t pretend to be fine anymore. I’m trying to stay professional and checked in, but truthfully I’ve been crying a lot at work and having trouble focusing or caring.

Last night I had a bit of a breakdown and was hysterically crying and screaming for several hours. In the midst of this I cancelled my monthly department meeting for the following day and emailed my boss saying I wouldn’t be in. I think I was relatively professional in my communication about this, but I just said “something personal has come up for me,” and asked to touch base with him later this week. The thing is, I don’t know exactly what I want to touch base with him about or what my options are to try to make things better for myself without screwing over the people I work with.

I am seeing a therapist and I made arrangements to meet with her tomorrow and will discuss this with her as well, but I’m just trying to approach this from every angle. Something I’m considering is taking FMLA, but I don’t know if I would qualify. Maybe this is stupid, but I don’t know if I’ve ever been diagnosed with a mental health condition. I’ve been going to therapy since I was 12, have had 6 different therapists, seen 3 different psychiatrists, been on 5 different antidepressants, called a crisis hotline 3 different times in my life, and the words anxiety & depression have definitely appeared on my health records before. But I don’t know if I have a diagnosed condition that would qualify for FMLA. No one has ever said, “this is your diagnosis, you have this thing.” And despite everything I wrote above, part of me doesn’t think I do even have a mental health condition and am in fact just a weak, sad baby who can’t handle stress. Because frankly, my issues seem to be pretty situational and when I take away the stressor, I’m kind of fine. Not happy, but pretty much fine. And when I’m fine I don’t even recognize the girl who was ugly crying in the street, or screaming for hours, or hitting herself and pacing around the room. That’s some crazy person who bares no relationship to me.

Clearly something is wrong with me, but I don’t know what and I don’t know if I would qualify for FMLA or what kind of evidence I would need to provide for that. If I don’t qualify for FMLA, I don’t know if I should ask for any extra support or accommodations at work, or what that would even look like. I also don’t want to totally screw over my company. The job is inherently stressful, but the people I work with are fine. I don’t have a toxic work environment so I don’t want to just be like, screw you guys I’m going to go deal with my mental health and you can just deal with the fallout of me leaving.

I know intermittent leave or just using sick and vacation days for mental health purposes are a potential option, but honestly I don’t know if that’s the right solution for me. Over Thanksgiving I had a total of 6 days off, and 1 day into my vacation I couldn’t relax or enjoy myself with the looming prospect of work. I was already crying about work when it was still 5 days away. So I don’t know if taking a day off here and there for mental health reasons will work for me.

Financially, I was only recently able to afford to move out of my parents house due to this promotion as I wasn’t getting paid much before, so I don’t have a ton of savings accrued. I have about 15 days total PTO available right now with vacation and sick time. Between that and my savings I think I could comfortably take about 2 months off without worrying about depleting my savings too much and losing my safety net entirely. But I’m very concerned about losing my insurance through my job because COBRA premiums or healthcare through the marketplace are so expensive.

I’m also not even convinced that taking an extended leave is even the best option. It’s pretty clear to me that this job isn’t a good fit, and I’ve been applying for a while for more administrative positions that don’t have managerial responsibilities. I’ve been focusing a lot on jobs with government agencies and public institutions like utilitity districs, colleges etc, which are more competitive. I haven’t had any success yet and I don’t know how long it will take to find a new job. Ideally I know I would just try to keep holding on until I secured a new position, but I honestly don’t know if I can. I also frankly don’t know if I’m in a good place to start a new job right now and probably need to take some time to deal with my issues.

I think I would continue looking for jobs if I took leave though. Would I be a huge asshole for resigning while on leave and having potentially deprived my employer of months where they could have hired my replacement? I think this would burn some bridges, especially considering the previous manager in this role did something very similar last year, and she was never well-liked at this company. However, this is the only way I can see of keeping my health insurance so I can continue getting professional help. If my health insurance were not tied to my employer I think I would just put in my 2 weeks tomorrow. I'm 26 so just out of range of being able to be on my parent's plan.

I also have a long history of sabotaging my own success, and I honestly have no idea if that’s what I’m doing right now by considering taking a leave of absence and revealing my issues to my employer, or if in fact I am doing a smart thing and prioritizing my health. I switch between these two mindsets by the minute.

If you read this whole thing, thank you so much. I would be very grateful for any advice right now.
posted by efsrous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Something I’m considering is taking FMLA, but I don’t know if I would qualify. Maybe this is stupid, but I don’t know if I’ve ever been diagnosed with a mental health condition.

This is not stupid at all. It is a GREAT question to ask your therapist tomorrow.

Your therapist can talk with you about what she thinks your current clinical diagnosis might be and how you would communicate it to your employer.

You could also ask your therapist if your current level of treatment is effective for you. Ask her if more or different medication might help, if she can refer you to a psychiatrist or help you schedule an appointment, or if there are options for more intensive behavior treatment.

A great resource for job accommodations and strategies is JAN, the Job Accommodation Network. For example, here is their list of accommodation ideas for depression. You might also be interested in their sample letter to request accommodations through the ADA (this is separate from FMLA; I don't know much about that process). I highly recommend just exploring the site and researching accommodations, even ones that aren't listed as mental health accommodations.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:35 AM on November 27, 2018

It sounds to me like you have an untreated anxiety disorder that may respond well to treatment with medication. If you've never seen a psychiatrist with prescribing privileges, it's possible your team just hasn't really considered that it might be best for your situation.
posted by wierdo at 11:43 AM on November 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

I think this is very solvable. I do not think looping your boss in at this time is a good idea because I’m not clear from what you wrote what actionable work issues exist. Your job and work are not you. Your job is a role you are fulfilling for compensation, your work are the tasks required to fulfill the role of your job. You seem to be having a personal crisis of some sort which is effecting your job? Is that correct?

A lot of good practical advice will be given regarding your job (I hope!) so I’m going to skip that. OK?

If I were you (and in some ways 20 yrs ago I was) I would address this with self-care and by getting some habits and a practice going to help stabilize my life and give me a structure to build my life on.

You can look this up, but sometimes medications cause vitamin deficiencies and imbalances, so #1 just take a decent multivitamin for a month. And some probiotics. I know it sounds dumb, but just do it.

You don’t mention anything outside of work. You are not just a head in a jar, you are a body/mind system. If you don’t engage in regular exercise and some kind of meditative practice or flow state, this can lead to the kinds of freak outs you are describing. I mean, there are a bajillion diagnosises and ways of treating whatever is diagnosed, but at the end of the day you are a full system. If you are only doing talk therapy or meds and not integrating those modalities with exercise and other healthy lifestyle habits, it’s always going to be lopsided and never quite stable or sustainable.

I’m not a doctor and there isn’t enough detail to give you more advice, but what I’ve described is the shape of the long term solution you should work towards. Something that involves a lifestyle which highlights nutrition, exercise, intellectual growth and meditative states which help rewire your brain to cope better.

Your brain can’t do it alone. You need to bring the rest of you (body + mind) along for the ride.

Find a therapist and doctor who deals with holistic modalities and won’t treat you like a brain in a jar. You are so much more than that.

You can do this.
posted by jbenben at 11:55 AM on November 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

If you have ever had a therapist you didn’t pay out of pocket, ie a therapist who billed insurance, you have a diagnosis. They can’t bill insurance without one.
posted by Smearcase at 12:20 PM on November 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

If you don’t engage in regular exercise and some kind of meditative practice or flow state

Not everyone is neurologically capable of meditation/mindfulness, and others are capable of it, but it is actually harmful for them. It's not a miracle cure for disease, and mental illnesses are diseases. Please stop pushing it as something EVERYONE should do.
posted by Violet Hour at 3:01 PM on November 27, 2018 [5 favorites]

The answer regarding FMLA in California is absolutely yes. I had a total meltdown at the beginning of October and was able to take 4 weeks of FMLA leave. I am also in California. If you have a provider willing to sign the paperwork, you can absolutely do this.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:22 AM on November 28, 2018

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