I’ve been sitting on this post for a while now… not sure how to write it, but I’ve put it off for too long, so here goes.
Before I get into my issues, I want to say that by no way do I minimize combat veteran PTSD. This is one of the biggest issues, in my opinion, of the military, and I wish the governments would do more to help soldiers who come back from war with PTSD.
When I first learned about PTSD, and for years after, it was only associated with combat veterans. It was scary, and it was tied to a high suicide rate, divorce, etc. Sad stuff. Let’s get a real focus on preventing and treating this for our veterans, please.
Could someone like me… someone who can’t even do five pushups in a row, have PTSD?
When I was 17 I was in a bad car crash. The three others involved, and their parents, were very gracious, and I’ve not felt or heard any animosity from them. Still, it took me a solid two years before I could (a) talk about the accident, and (b) talk about it without shaking. More than twenty years later I get emotion thinking or talking about it, and if I witness an accident a whole lot of feelings come over me.
I’m no psychologist but I’ve always thought this is PTSD.
When I got my new job, almost three months ago, I started to see symptoms of what I’m going to call Job PTSD. This stems from experiences I had over 12 years ago, when I had a boss that caused me a considerable amount of grief. This happened for about three years, culminating in me losing my job.
Let me put that into perspective: When I lost my job, I lost my income, my health insurance, my vacation, future contributions to my retirement… I lost my identity (because no one told me that I wasn’t just my job title), and the hopes and dreams I had worked so hard for. I lost friends… some real and deep relationships, I lost self-respect and self-confidence. I also entered into a period of deep depression and struggled with my relationships, including the most important relationship I had, with my wife.
I could go on, but I don’t need to. You get the point.
This happened because of one person and, really, because I didn’t understand career management, personal branding, and networking. I gave that one person too much power over me.
When I landed my dream job (almost) three months ago I was in a situation where it could all happen again. I’m wiser this time, and more prepared, but still, I put myself in a position where one person could have such a big impact on my life and future.
Soon after starting, while I was going through the learning curve and “impostor syndrome” I started to feel a lot of anxiety. A different kind of anxiety than I had experienced before… this time it was a tight chest, and some other things.
I had some talks with my new boss about it and they were great. But here I am, an fairly accomplished, mid-level professional, having these issues from stuff that happened 12+ years ago. This was unlike anything else I’ve felt before.
For the last week or two I’ve felt MUCH, much better. A lot of the anxiety has subsided. I feel more calm, more at peace, more in control, and less vulnerable. I have less feelings of “what if this happens, and then I lose my job?” I have had feelings about “what if I get backstabbed, or politicked out? What if the project doesn’t work out… what if, what if, what if?”
I don’t have an answer. I am “chilling out,” and working through this. I’m having the right conversations with the right people.
I don’t write this because I have an answer, but because it’s a real thing. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has gone through it. I hope that somewhere, somehow, we can start a dialog that will help people. Because this, job or career PTSD, really sucks.
So, now what?