Job and Career PTSD

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?

4 thoughts on “Job and Career PTSD”

  1. This is real. May or may not reach the level of clinical PTSD, but clearly affected your ability to return to an environment with those same triggers.

    Being honest about your insecurity and emotions was super hard, but is clearly what it took for you to make the healing steps.

    Kudos to your employer / supervisor for being respectful of that. And once you’re steady on your feet, you’ll be able to make the progress you are capable of (instead of holding onto the anxiety, which would hamper you).

  2. You’re absolutely right, Jason. Like Christina, I don’t know if PTSD is the right clinical term, but I have experienced the same symptoms for the same reasons, and so have some of my clients. Like I did, most of them blamed themselves for being too sensitive or not savvy enough. Like me, they had trouble when they started their job search. I never worked for anyone else again. I started my business and never looked back, but some can’t or don’t want that path. For them, the job search holds more insecurity and fear than for the average job seeker. I join you in urging our governments to be more accountable for veterans with PTSD. Likewise, I encourage companies to be more accountable for what management does to employees. The effects are life changing. Thanks for your post. It will help people.

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