I’ve been off my work as a first responder, for more than a year. I’d witnessed traumatizing events that caused tension in my marriage.
I had to focus on my mental health and seek treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Meanwhile, I suffered a miscarriage (unexpected pregnancy) which further spiralled me into a destructive state of mind requiring grief therapy.
I want to return to work but feel conflicted about it.
I’m exposed to violence and attacks there almost daily, which I know will trigger my anxiety again.
But I feel my entire life (including having children) is on hold.
I’ve applied to several other jobs, but either failed the interviews, or the money wasn’t enough to support keeping my home and paying off our expenses. My current job pays incredibly well.
I recently asked my doctor about medication, after a psychotherapist said that the medication would “re-calibrate” my brain, then I could stop taking it.
But my doctor said that I’d likely become dependent on medication (due to both social anxiety and PTSD).
I was told instead to get a new job and continue mindfulness meditation.
I feel like just taking the medication but I know I cannot work that job forever because it’ll further deteriorate my mental health. (Most seasoned staff there are very jaded, unhappy, and stuck).
Having no interview success all year makes me miserable and anxious, as does the possibility of having to go back.
Seeking My Normal Again
The medical and therapy professionals gave you options regarding medication vs. changing jobs.
But your “seeking normal” is more about your relationship with yourself and how it affects your future.
You’ve mentioned strong clues about what’s not been your previous normal: e.g. you know now that PTSD will surely occur again in that job, and you may get “stuck” there.
You also fear financial stress if you work elsewhere.
Yet the decision you face isn’t as tough as you think.
While people can recover from PTSD, some recover in six months, while others take much longer.
So, for you to re-enter the same work situation that caused trauma for you is unwise now and perhaps indefinitely.
While we’re all very fortunate to have brave people take on the demanding work of first responders, you’ve learned the hard way that not everyone can handle seeing horrific events.
That includes you, for the foreseeable future. And, sadly, the miscarriage added grief to your unhappiness.
What you want/need in the near future, is to feel healthy, be happy in your marriage, and possibly start a family.
Assuming that you’re receiving worker’s compensation, and that it likely covers such help as therapy, I suggest you stay with it.
Be positive that the future will bring some changes, focus on re-gaining your self-confidence, and see a career counsellor to discuss what other directions your skills and interests can take you.
The pay for a new job may not be at the high level given first responders, based on the risks they face.
Yet you’ve experienced that personal cost to you.
Anyone who, like you, has the grit to have even held that stressful job, is sure to get ahead in another area of work, and rise to a higher salary.
It seems clear to me that if you start to better prepare for looking for a job in which you can feel “normal” again, it’s the better choice for you, for your marriage and your future.
FEEDBACK Final question regarding the man, 86, wanting to divorce his wife, 84 (Oct. 23):
Reader – “He wrote to you that, “She dreamed up false stories that I had many affairs.”
“I’m asking: Did she actually dream up these “affairs,” or does she, at age 84, need a neurological/psychiatric assessment?”
Ellie - That question was from a retired social worker with an MA in the field.
It’s a thoughtful raising of possibilities that, unfortunately cannot be answered when there’s no hint of such information from the letter-writer.
The husband made no mention of suggesting his wife seek such an assessment. He also showed no concern for her state of health overall.
His question mostly centered on his having “taken her in” to his well-off life, yet was denied a robust sex life because she wasn’t interested in it.
Despite his being a scientist, he looked no further for a medical or other health-related reason for her “disinterest.”
Tip of the day:
A job that’s caused diagnosed negative effects to your mental health, isn’t worth its higher salary.