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Mental illness and work

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Phoenix76

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Hi, I wonder if anyone can relate to my experience. I am a 43 year old man from the UK (England). I've never been officially diagnosed with anything, but I'm pretty sure I have an avoidant personality disorder, plus schizoid (not schizophrenic), paranoid and dependent traits. Toxic shame is another crippling problem, along with extreme social anxiety.

Anyway, work/earning money has always been a massive problem for me, as I'm sure it has for others on here. It isn't just social interaction, however. What really matters are the circumstances in which I interact with people. When I'm working for someone, and have colleagues, my anxiety and stress goes through the roof, especially if I'm trapped in a building of some kind (a shop, warehouse, office, etc). Yet when I have control I'm OK. In other words, I want to work for, or by, myself.

So, for example, I could run a burger van on the side of a busy motorway, and I'd be fine. I would chat to the motorists and truckers, and even feel confident enough to turn away the rude or obnoxious ones. However, if you made me work in McDonalds, doing exactly the same thing (selling burgers to the public) I'd fall apart.

Can anyone relate to this? And do you have any experiences of working alone/working for yourself?
 
Tawny

Tawny

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I could run a burger van but in McDonalds, i don't think i could even show up for one shift.

Is this social anxiety? I don't know, maybe it is the speed of thought required whilst distracted by noise and a hectic environment where you cannot escape, maybe pressure to talk to people.

A smaller business might be easier, but there is still pressure there. Anxiety.

It doesn't sound like you have a personality disorder to me.
 
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Phoenix76

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I could run a burger van but in McDonalds, i don't think i could even show up for one shift.
Ah..so it's not just me!!

maybe it is the speed of thought required whilst distracted by noise and a hectic environment where you cannot escape, maybe pressure to talk to people.
Yes, now I think of it you may be right. Anxiety paralyses. It sort of freezes the brain. If I was in a shop or office, and someone started explaining how the photocopier or till worked, I'd be nodding and smiling but my brain wouldn't be taking in one scrap of information.

Another problem is intimacy. I experience a lot of toxic shame, and don't like random people getting too close. To return to my earlier example, in my little burger van I could pull down the shutters. In McDonalds, however, if a colleague started asking personal questions, there'd be no escape. There's also the horrible third party feeling. For someone with social anxiety (and no doubt other mental health problems), having to interact with people while a third person watches and listens and judges, is a nightmare.
 
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LouMar

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Hi, I have similar problems with work and anxiety. Im 44 and live in the UK. Ive always had alot of anxiety around work and have always avoided the ridged 9 till 5pm as it feels like prison. Ive.got by mainly by working part time in places that have always felt nice (plenty of windows, breaks, nice atmosphere, bright and airy). However, 3 years ago after restructuring and massive upheaval and stress I became unable to return to my job and sadly was made redundant last year. Now Im finding it almost impossible to get another job as the anxiety and panic kicks in even just looking at job pages. I love crafting and I have been trying to set up an online shop as Im fine when working on something I feel I have control over. Sadly my little craft shop isnt exactly making much of a living but I would really love to be able to work for myself and never have to re-enter official workplaces. Ive always thought it was my head that wasnt right and its taken me to some very dark places, including suicidal thoughts. But after reading your post, you are the first person I have ever known describe similar feelings to me! Secretly I feel I have somekind of phobia about work but Ive never come across many other people who feel like me. Its hell to live with as its obviously hard to live without a job, but the thought just terrifies me to the point that if the Jobcentre force me back Im pretty sure it will push me to a very unsafe place. Im on ESA and already had to fight and go to a tribunal just to be allowed to be in the support group (backing of my gp and counsellor). Hopefully one day soon Ill somehow get over this crippling fear. But thanks for sharing your post.
 
DanL15000

DanL15000

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Ah, let's see.

Pizza place, quit without notice
Construction, gave two weeks notice
machine shop, gave two weeks notice
College, barely showed up, quit
Fast food, quit without notice
Gas station, two weeks notice
Restaurant, quit without notice
Factory, laid off
Convenience store, gave two weeks notice
College again, just stopped going
Convenience store, quit without notice
Retail store, quit without notice
Sales position, business closed
Temp job, gave two weeks notice
Delivery job, quit without notice
Sales job, quit without notice
Talked my way back into same deiivery job, quit without notice
Motel, quit without notice
Job at University, transferred out (new way of quitting, such a big place)
Still at University, transferred again
Still at University, quit without notice
Furniture assembly, quit without notice
Gas station, quit without notice
Paint mixing shop, quit without notice
Factory, flipped out, demanded I be job failed, sent to different job in factory.
Factory, threw my id at General Foreman demanding they fire me, he refused.
Wore out the bones in my hands, sent to walking wounded job in factory.
Factory paid me to go away (that's what I call the workman's comp payment. Technically, I quit without notice)
Gas Station, lasted one day, quit without notice.
Started up my own business. Guess what? Quit without notice.

That's 30, from 1978 to 2011. Thirty three years. In that time I was never fired for something I did on the job. I was promoted...let's see...Four times. Which is pretty good considering I barely stayed anywhere.

My problem was that I get more paranoid the longer I know someone. I have trouble reading faces, or understanding the tones of voices. I also sometimes think I hear someone say something...that they didn't. Add to that my panic attacks. And the worst of it...under stress I sometimes blank out and frankly it isn't me. At least, I don't remember running off, driving away. I come to about half an hour later and have no idea how I got where I am or why.

When my hands wore out at the factory...after trying to recuperate and then starting my own business (I didn't want to be disabled), I finally admitted I was finished due to my hands and claimed, eventually earning disability.

My mental illnesses were always the real problem.

The only advice I can give? I never gave help a chance. I believed the world was screwed up, not me. Pardon me for repeating this from other posts. But the day in 2014 that I went in for an evaluation and just started telling stuff with honesty? The day I listened? Maybe if it had come sooner, I could have managed better. I do not know.
 
OCDguy

OCDguy

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I wonder if you have had any trumatic experiences while working in those sort of environments :hug:
 
OCDguy

OCDguy

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If you are talking to me, every second I lasted I was in trauma.
Sorry my bad, I should have included your post like I have here... I also wonder if the trauma centred around those in charge etc... :hug:
 
DanL15000

DanL15000

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Sorry my bad, I should have included your post like I have here... I also wonder if the trauma centred around those in charge etc... :hug:
Around my illnesses. Had I only known... I could have found some job away from people.
 
irwin

irwin

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I've had some jobs where I did okay and others where I was anxious from the moment I walked through the door till the moment I left. People thought I was a "difficult" person, but I'm just afraid of people and don't connect with anyone and am resented for not being friendly.

But really, there's almost always one person who ruins it for me -- that really sociable person who takes a disliking to me then talks about me behind my back -- the kind of person who, if he or she doesn't like someone, they want to make sure nobody likes that person.

The times when there wasn't that one person, I did okay. Sometimes I'd go years doing okay at a job. And then they'd hire that one asshole and it would be just a matter of time before my life became hell and I'd have to quit.

I became a software development contractor and had one steady client for over ten years. Then they hired this asshole to be their technology "expert." He was a dumbass who thought he knew everything. He caused me to lose that customer. I think they found out what he was after they got rid of me and he couldn't do anything. Bullshit only goes so far. Once they're expected to do some actual work, they're exposed.
 
DanL15000

DanL15000

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When I think about it. For others, not me, I'm long since past a career and might just as well be considered early retired.

But why is it that it is every man for himself in careers? We aren't all the same and certainly this forum is an example of that. Yet when I read posts so often I read intelligent, thought out views. I can well imagine the value many people on here have.

Why the meat grinder where everyone has to fit it, in ways that have nothing to do with producing profit? It seems the opposite of wise business. It seems, prejudiced.

So someone is troubled, or worse, when engaging with other people on a frequent basis? Accommodate! Give 'em a space away from everyone and let the computer be the communication.

Here's a thought. In the U.S. when we passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, we FORGOT people with learning delays. Mentally Retarded was the term. I bring up the term as some smart lawyers sued and the M.R. Waiver was created. Now if that an happen why can't mental illnesses be a part of the A.D.A.?

Fact. They are!

This is of course just for the U.S., but the link I provide should give a good idea...IF you are employed, what protections do you have? It's time to stop thinking one deserves to be treated like crud. Your finish line need not to be the same finish line that someone else can reach. We aren't all the same.

But we have value!!! And we should expect fair accommodations to allow us to perform our tasks. Cripes so occasionally I snapped from the stress and disappeared for a bit? A delivery job? A sales job? Putting furniture together? So what!!?!? I was also better at those jobs when I was performing them than many.

The link, isn't a fix. But I hope it is inspiration for someone to find out what rights they have. Because you are worth it and if your employer doesn't know it...screw them.

 
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Phoenix76

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Oct 24, 2018
Messages
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Location
Essex, England/UK
Ive always thought it was my head that wasnt right and its taken me to some very dark places, including suicidal thoughts. But after reading your post, you are the first person I have ever known describe similar feelings to me! Secretly I feel I have some kind of phobia about work but I've never come across many other people who feel like me. Its hell to live with as its obviously hard to live without a job, but the thought just terrifies me to the point that if the Jobcentre force me back Im pretty sure it will push me to a very unsafe place. Im on ESA and already had to fight and go to a tribunal just to be allowed to be in the support group (backing of my gp and counsellor). Hopefully one day soon Ill somehow get over this crippling fear. But thanks for sharing your post.
Hi Lou. Well, one thing's for sure - you're not alone! I have no doubt there are literally millions of introverts and socially anxious people who hate and dread Monday morning. Look at the response to The Office. It was an obscure British show, and yet it's loved all over the world. And why? Because people in Canada and the States and Australia and Germany and many other places watched it and thought "thank god! I thought it was only me!" They loved it because they identified with Tim, and because they also have to work with idiots like Brent or bullies like Finchy. Not only did the Brits see themselves in Tim, so did Americans, Canadians, French and numerous others.

I know what you mean about feeling ill when you pick up the job's page. Just the thought of having to wear a suit and sit for an interview and then introduce myself around the office makes me feel sick. Even as I'm typing this I can feel a shiver of fear. Anyway, it's not going to happen. I would rather die alone in a council flat than go and work in an office or warehouse. I genuinely don't care what I do. Fulfilling careers are for the confident, assertive extroverts. I just want to survive. Unfortunately, my social anxiety, paranoia, and a general avoidant/schizoid personalty have never been officially diagnosed. I have no official label, in other words. So as far as society is concerned, I'm just a lazy waste of space. If only I could earn an average wage sticking labels on bottles at home for six hours a day. It would be perfect. I'd get up early, put on some music or podcasts, and get it all done by lunch. Perfect. It's not work that's the problem. I want to work and pay tax and contribute to society. It's having to deal with people that I can't stand. Being trapped in a room with five or six strangers, many of whom I don't like, for hours on end, is a living hell.
 
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Phoenix76

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My problem was that I get more paranoid the longer I know someone.
Same here. People reassure you that the longer you work somewhere the easier it becomes. It doesn't. The more relaxed people become, the more personal the questions they ask. They start asking all kinds of intrusive stuff and I hate it. I'm so full of shame that I can't bear people getting too close.
 
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Phoenix76

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But really, there's almost always one person who ruins it for me -- that really sociable person who takes a disliking to me then talks about me behind my back -- the kind of person who, if he or she doesn't like someone, they want to make sure nobody likes that person.
I have a friend with social anxiety and she said exactly the same. She finally got a job she liked, and then some nasty, spiteful little bit*h turned up and ruined it. She quickly made friends with everyone in the office, went out drinking with them at the weekend, etc, and then slowly turned them against my friend, until she was so unhappy she left.
 
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LouMar

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Oct 17, 2020
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The thing I find so weird about myself is that I would class myself more of an extrovert and I love socialising. Im lucky that I tend to get along with most people and infact my mental health is worse when I dont mix enough (hence Covid restrictions are really bad for me). If I could relate to being socially anxious then it might explain my fear of work but in truth Im a very sociable person. I literally just seem to have a real phobia of being trapped in work, wasting my life, like a caged animal. Over my life Ive had 4 jobs and each one has ended because there has been too much stress, staff cut backs or organisational change. I hate that the employer has control over my happiness. They can change my duties at any point or put too much pressure on me and expect me to cope. My most recent job I somehow stayed for 14 years part time and thought Id have a job for life...but no...some arsehole of a boss came along and restructured. I panicked couldnt cope and have been 3 years now on the sick. Aswell as my bad experiences in my past my dad who is now 73 sadly had a breakdown at 45 and has never worked since. So I guess its kinda understandable where my fear comes from but I want to change the outcome for me and not be written off at 44. My deep rooted belief that work causes stress and anxiety has proven me right many times. One time after being long term sick I actually returned to my job and thought I had finally conquered my fear...but no...6 years later it has happened again only this time its been the worst episode ever.

I agree with Phoenix76...If I could just do sumat at home like stuff envelopes, assemble things etc without having the official work place routine then I would feel much better and could at least get off benefits. Why is there only one accepted way to work? I really hope this Covid shakes up employers and that more opportunities become available for people like us who seriously cant face the workplace coz of severe anxiety. I have searched the internet, looked at dat entry jobs, resesrch jobs etc but most of them are just too complicated or too good to be true. Sorry for rambling but my fear and anxiety makes me feel so angry and isolated. I know my friends just think I need a new job and then Ill be fine but in truth I dont think id even get to a start date. The anxiety comes on so strong that the only alternative I can think of is suicide. Its a constant battle to keep hopeful....thanks for listening.
 
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