“I feel anxious all the time, I can’t sleep and I dread going to work,” stated Jane on her first therapy session.
“I finally got the nursing job that I’ve wanted for so long and some of my co-workers are making it unbearable.”
Jane loves taking care of her patients and continues with her education to advance her level of knowledge, but when her hair started falling out she got scared.
Jane talked with Susan who had previously held her position. Susan quit the job she also loved due to conflicts that never seemed to get resolved, as well as health concerns due to the constant level of stress.
I do not have any statistics of happy, contented workers vs. their unlucky counterparts but for those of you who not only enjoy your job AND your co-workers...you are blessed! I have had my own experience with this unfortunate workplace dilemma. I believe most of us want to be good employees and give 100%. Some of us have given 150% and then some.
By now, hopefully, we have figured out that if we give more than 100%, it becomes the expectation. We then begin to carry the employee who only gives 75% or less and somehow manages to impress people.
My mental and emotional anxiety was probably more noticeable than the physical, at first. Since everyone in my circle was stressed, fatigued and sleep deprived, I felt normal within this group. My physical symptoms were insidious; you get a headache, take two pills and it goes away. Neck and shoulder tension, take two pills and it goes away. Fatigue, drink more caffeine and it goes away. So I played out this daily scenario until the pain didn’t go away with two pills.
One morning I had a new symptom; pain in the side of my neck. Who hasn’t had that I thought. No big deal - must have slept wrong. Over the next three days the pain hit every joint in my body.
When it was in my hands - I could hardly hold a pencil, in my hips, I could barely sit and stand. I was walking across campus at OCU attending a conference and I could barely put one foot in front of the other. I was only 38, what was going on?When I finally dragged myself to the doctor he told me I might have Lupus, arthritis or some other autoimmune disease. He gave me an exam, ran tests and we waited. His diagnosis was an oxymoron (bitter/sweet). I did not have an autoimmune disease - I had STRESS and it was manifesting itself as this illness.
He did not pull out a prescription pad, he cut right to the chase, “If you don’t quit or find a better way to cope with the stress, someone else will raise your daughter.”
I did quit that job about four months later. My doctor saved my life. I enjoyed taking care of my patients but the conflicts, on so many levels were literally destroying by body. Sometimes the fight just isn’t worth it. When the body has had enough - its done! Two pills lead to four, caffeine leads to something stronger, self-medicating leads to prolonged misery.
How long can we say, “maybe its not that bad,” “it will get better” or “maybe she will quit?” Does your hair have to fall out before you begin to take action? Just in case you’re wondering what happened to Jane...she quit!!
Vicki L. Mayfield, M.Ed., RN, LMFT is a Marriage and Family Therapist and Registered Nurse. She has a part time private practice and works part time at St. Anthony's Behavioral Medicine Department.