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to ask you to help me help my DH with severe stress issues

(38 Posts)
brighteyedandbushytailed Mon 22-Oct-12 12:49:18

Posted this in employment issues but having had so much support (really!) on AIBU in the past and knowing that many people who don't look at that topic might have advice, posting here as well.

DH is suffering from extreme workplace stress. There are several causes of this - his anxious personality, hangover from bullying in his previous job, tough time in his company. This has been slow-burning for months (since say June) but has become more acute over the last 4 weeks.

His symptoms include - neck and shoulder pain (he had a massage and the masseuse found 6 muscle knots!) pins and needles, losing sensation in hands or feet or getting patches which are extremely cold, twitches, hyperventilating, extreme avoidance, self medicating with alcohol, using the internet on his phone to distract himself for hours before he gets to sleep and on his way in in the morning. Last week he was floored by the type of cold which would normally be a low level sniffle. He suffers what he describes as "low level panic attacks" (ie symptoms exist for 2-3 hours but he tries to ignore them and carry on with his work. Several times it has culminating in his ringing me from the alleyway behind the office hyperventilating and in floods of tears).

He keeps describing himself as an awful person. Noone, none of his colleagues thinks that. He is on the waiting list for private and NHS CBT, neither yet come throug (private hopefully later this week). In the meantime he is refusing to go onto anti-anxiety medication because of some incidents which happened in the immediate family which have made him scared of the side effects. He is refusing to go off sick, partly because "the stress will still be there when I get back" (I see where he is coming from but think he'd be better able to do deal with it) and also because there is an issue at work which he thinks will become a performance managament/disciplinary issue for him if he doesn't keep on top of it. I don't know what the issue is for definate but I have my suspicions and, knowing the industry and company well, think that at most it is likely to be a slap on the wrist, that it is important he has a record of his psychological state in case it is worse than that and that his current lack of judgement due to stress is more likely to create more serious problems.

He has twice, not for several weeks though, made comments about how he wishes he'd the guts to self harm "mildly" to "let it all out" and "bring everything to a head".

His line manager and line manager's line manager are both very decent people. The LM has an inkling of the situation. DH is refusing to discuss it further with the LM or HR to look at ways of minimising his stress without him going off sick. I am seriously considering ringing the LM myself. DH has made me promise not to though and I don't want to do anything which will make him feel more under attack.

I am seriously worried. Does anybody have any advice?

lavenderlois Mon 22-Oct-12 13:14:07

It sounds to me like he might have depression; i'm no doctor though and am only speaking through personal experience of what happened with my OH . Really, he needs to see the gp (although perhaps he already has if there was the suggestion of anti-anxiety medication - even still, he needs to go back). Talking of self harm, or worse, is not good - I have no idea of what happened with his close relatives and the side effects of any medication they were on, but firstly, these effects might not happen to him, and secondly if he his thinking of self harm, then the side effects might be far less than what might otherwise happen. CBT may be of limited use if he is not on anti-depressants - he needs to be in a place where he can take the advice from the CBT classes and put in into practice. Depression, or any similar mental illness, are really common and nothing to be ashamed about. it is not easy getting someone who is (or who might be) ill to see what is wrong with them though - the mind thinks all sorts of things that arent there. Do you think you could get him to see his gp again?
His work need to know (his LM at least, there is no need for the rest of his team to know it is anything other than 'stress' or the 'flu' or whatever) as they need to work a plan out to help him have some time off and then return to work in a better state and with less stress at work.
PM me if you want.

brighteyedandbushytailed Mon 22-Oct-12 13:28:29

Thankyou for replying lavender.

I'm calling it stress (not really hung up on the labels, and most of my reading around depression/anxiety/stress suggests that the boundaries are blurred between the issues) because it almost exclusively manifests itself in relation to his work and his performance there. Outside of work our lives have carried on fine - when he was off sick, as soon as I had persuaded him to part with the blackberry and put a film on to distract him the stress symptoms went. At evenings and weekends the trigger for the panic is when something reminds him of work and so long as we can sidestep that he is fine. It is almost like he is developing a phobia of the workplace.

There is absolutely no way he will ever consider medication. He is very keen to go for the CBT and bless him, has been trying his best to start it on his own from manuals etc. He seems to think that he can just push on through and this will go away through a mixture of time and therapy - I'm starting to wonder if he needs a short period of time of to "reset".

Sazzle41 Mon 22-Oct-12 13:47:44

This sounds like anxiety due to perception vs reality combined with his self esteem being on floor due to bullying. It soundls like its mainly the work performance issue , so address that first while u wait for counselling re his esteem and possible depression. Write down the work problem. Just identifying it will help. Write down posssible solutions and consequences of each. Choose a solution with a consequence that works for you and then, implement it ie. address the fear. It might not make the situation go away but addressing it means anxiety will lesson and he will feel less panic stricken having 'taken control' which in turn will boost his esteem. On top of that he needs wind down time/time out from the exhaustion of obsessing (which is causing his anxiety). So, a good book or a film, or family time, not a game that will wind him up .. or a long walk ... The counselling will address his underlying esteem and/or depression but you can make a start now and trust me, doing something about it is half the battle .... Hugs ...

brighteyedandbushytailed Mon 22-Oct-12 14:03:11

Thank you Sazzle.

He was bullied for three years in his previous job. The key bully was someone very senior and very clever, who did it in very subtle ways which meant that he could never identify it as bullying, much less seek support. I knew very little about it at the time. Since he left that job and moved to a much safer and more supportive environment he has started to suffer from (I think) something almost like PTSD - he can't separate in his head the new from the old environment.

He won't tell me what the problem/s is/are directly but I know his role and the industry and can infer. I am concerned that keeping it bottled up means that he has blown it out of all proportion in his head. I have found a private counsellor he can see tonight and am trying to persuade him that if all he does it sit down with this person and tell them all the things weighing on his mind he is too afraid to tell me he will feel better. I have bought him a new book, two new dvds and have the ingredients in for some baking after dinner.

brighteyedandbushytailed Mon 22-Oct-12 14:03:50

the thing I find most distressing is that he can't open up to me. He tries and then bottles out. I would love him no matter what he's done.

Sazzle41 Mon 22-Oct-12 14:16:50

Firstly bullying/emotional abuse is devastating mentally./emotionally.. so well done for recongising that & getting him help: you sound really supportive. Secondly, men are conditioned from an early age to show a coping face to the world and be 'manly' ... so plse dont feel bad he cant talk directly to you. He wants to feel in charge and knowing he isn't makes him not want to admit it/he is prob embarrassed that he feels so at a loss... And, he will find talking to someone outside it ie. more objective, a huge help tbh....

Objectivity and distance give those outside the problem more insight too tbh and he doesn't have to worry about appearing strong/in charge either... You sound a lovely concerned partner .. Let us know how he and you get on....Forgot to say as well, if his new work is so nice the performance issue could be just his self esteem making a mountain out of molehill too ? Proactively requesting training, mentoring to master a new role/project when he is new, isn't going to make him look bad, just keen to impress and learn ..

Icanhasnickname Mon 22-Oct-12 14:22:14

Oh, how awfull. It must break your heart when he calls you crying and in a state. I kind of get why he doesnt seem to want to take time off though, any 'holiday' time will be tainted by the meer fact he has to go back, and therefore just turns into a countdown to when he has to face it all again rather than an actual break.
Maybe he is in the wrong line of work? If being in an office, deadlines, blackberrys etc seem to make his life hell...could he consider re-training? Sometimes just the idea of a 'get out plan' or 'plan B' is enough to break the cycle of work place stress. brew

mudipig Mon 22-Oct-12 14:23:57

Hi I'm not a doctor or anything but just wanted to say what they sometimes recommend is taking more exercise and going tee-total. Alcohol increases anxiety levels. Also there is an online CBT aid that drs recommend sometimes - i think it's called or

I hope the counsellor is of help to him. He doesn't sound very well at all.

Narked Mon 22-Oct-12 14:37:48

He needs to face it.

Time off work helps because it changes you and your ability to cope with things, not because it changes the work situation.

He needs to go back to the doctor and explain his fears about the medication and how he is feeling. He needs to take some type of medication and have a break from work (which can give time for the drugs to kick in.), Taking exercise can get some of the stress out of his system as can learning - and using very regularly - some relaxation techniques (free mp3s online.) Alcohol (depressant) and caffeine (elevates stress) will make him feel worse.

He must feel horribly trapped. Once he takes the first step, the rest will follow much more easily. If you feel he's not being straight with the GP about the severity of the situation, go in with him.

And when he's done that ^, he can work on changing the way he thinks and reacts (cognitive therapy.)

Dawndonna Mon 22-Oct-12 14:50:30

Poor, poor man. I think others are right, he is suffering with depression or perhaps post traumatic stress, and yes, severe bullying can do that. I would try to get him to see the gp, organise some counselling and see if there is anything that can be put into place at work to make it easier.
Good luck, I hope he feels better soon.

Paradisefound Mon 22-Oct-12 15:20:17

I have been through this myself and want you to know that he will recover but it will take time.
CBT can really help - but it can depend on the therapist.
Medication may be necessary - anxiety about taking anti-anxiety meds is normal and can be addressed through CBT and by starting on really low doses.
Rest may be recommended if symptoms continue or get worse.
Once he is feeling a bit better gentle exercise will help strengthen coping mechanisms, exercise can then be gradually increased.
Learning deep relaxation techniques will aid recovery e.g. Meditation
Life changes may be necessary. He needs to stop drinking.
I think your husband will be ok, he is going to get the help he needs. Try not to worry.

Wearsuncream Mon 22-Oct-12 15:23:29

Could there be something he's not saying? I kind of get the impression that he has had something happen that he can't explain or cope with or talk about ? Has he made a mistake of some sort and bottled it up? What about your in-laws ? Are they aware of this and could they advise or help either with time/insight or even financial if he needs a break?

SelfRighteousPrissyPants Mon 22-Oct-12 16:16:42

My DH had a similar thing to yours, probably less severe. He solved it by going off sick and finding a new job. If his job is causing him so much stress he needs to either change jobs or departments if at all possible.

I would definitely encourage him to take time off, he won't be able to help himself while he is in the middle of things.

thebody Mon 22-Oct-12 16:26:03

My dh too had a similar anxiety episode and as above post solved it by giving notice( v scary) and starting up as a sole trader.

You may have mortgage and kids but you also only have one life. If work is making that life so sad and toxic then it's time to change direction.

Can you pay the mortgage in your salary( assume you are working tho) can you sell the house, down size, cut cloth and just take the stress out if his having to go to this job??

I am aware that I may be making it sound simplistic but you're a long time dead and life should be enjoyed not endured.

Thinking of you both.

Joiningthegang Mon 22-Oct-12 16:31:18

Hi - it may be worth you havig a look at moodgym - basically it is online cnt and has been evidence based. It is brilliant - you can access it whenever you like for free and does make a difference - it was tecommended by a gp.

Just google it - it is an austrailian site but then has a uk version.

All the best - sounds like a tough time for both of you x

Joiningthegang Mon 22-Oct-12 16:33:25

Also high strength st johns wort (karma) is amazig

amicissimma Mon 22-Oct-12 16:57:25

You don't say what your commitments and finances are like, but to me you sound as if you are saying he almost needs to get his head clear to 'reset' it.

I may be way off here, but would it be possible for him to take a couple of weeks and go away on a short volunteering trip? He would be faced by all sorts of quite pressing, but very concrete problems, to solve as part of the team. It might result in quite a change of perspective and a boost to his self-esteem. A quick Google ('short volunteering trips abroad') comes up with quite a few, with varying costs. The only one I have any knowledge of is Tearfund, who are reliable, but they are Christian-based which may or may not be helpful to him.

I do hope you find something to help him.

OTheEldritchManateesOfMadness Mon 22-Oct-12 17:28:47

This happened to my DH. He got through it but the first step was facing how bad things were. Your DH needs to go see his doctor, who will most likely sign him off immediately. He will also help himsel if he cuts out alcohol and caffeine and starts exercising regularly, as both those stimulants make anxiety worse while exercise helps to regulate it.

I don't want to witter on about our story on your thread, OP, but you're very welcome to PM me. I felt frightened and frustrated and worried and isolated and all kinds of other stuff when DH was ill with stress, if I can help you feel even a fraction less alone than I did let me know.

NineteenForever Mon 22-Oct-12 19:12:26

Brighteyed- my DH had very similar experience and problems. I don't think I can add more than the others have, except to say mine used to call me in tears too- I feel for you. The thing with medication is that it may take a couple of different types to find one that works ok.

My DH's speed of descent if you will, was affected by how little time he had/made for himself. If your DH has a hobby or even had one, a set time to do it may be part of some improvements

. I hope your DH's work problems get sorted out-depression/stress whatever does stop you seeing things clearly. Hope things improve for you both.

brighteyedandbushytailed Mon 22-Oct-12 19:30:02

everyone - thank you for replying. I didn't want you to think I was ignoring the responses (got caught up with fractious DC this afternoon) but can't reply in detail at moment as trying to get some sense out of DH... will reply as soon as I can

Bumpincharge Mon 22-Oct-12 20:43:13

My DH has been stressed through pressures at work for a couple of years. He also didn't believe he was any good, was in physical pain from tight shoulders, constant severe indigestion... The list goes on! He finally got in contact with Axa (who provide workplace medical cover for those who qualify) After an initial assessment over the phone - about 40 mins of assessment - he was assigned 6 hours of one on one sessions with a therapist. He's now complete 4 one hour sessions and the change is remarkable. He's recognised the change it has made and will ask if it's possible for him to pay for top up sessions as and when required to make sure he doesn't slide back.

Many large companies have this available - it might be worth him asking if he has access to this facility. It has made such a difference to DH to be able to talk things through with someone who can get to the root cause and help you work it out.

Hope he gets what he needs.

brighteyedandbushytailed Wed 24-Oct-12 14:46:17

Hi everyone

Thank you so much for taking the time to reply, I really appreciate it.

DH has finally told me what he's so stressed about. Mostly it is just run-of-the-mill stuff - tight deadlines, high expectations etc. Unfortunately, one thing is a mistake he made. Totally human error but it involves a client. Noone yet knows about it and he doesn't know how to bring it up - poor thing is so overwhelmed he can't tell how big a deal it will be.

He is reluctant to go off sick because he is afraid that everything will blow up in his absence and make his performance look even worse (because he isn't there to sort it out). I'd be grateful as to what people think - my view is that if he goes off sick, is honest that he has a stress problem then it won't look half so bad as staying, messing things up and going off sick after everything blows up.

He has booked in for a second appt with the private therapist tomorrow. The therapist told him on Monday that there is no use or hope in her starting him on CBT stuff straight away because he is so wound up that he won't be able to put the effort into the stuff outside the consulting room. She's suggested he needs a couple of sessions purely to offload, start to trust her etc. I have no idea if that is a) sensible advice or b) a way of extracting more money. But he seemed to be happier when he came in on Monday and frankly £50 a pop for a little bit of happiness is worth it round here at the moment.

I feel so horribly guilty. A few months ago I was bitching about how negative he was and some of the things he said - I wish I'd listened properly and tried to help him stop this in its tracks.

There is, sadly, no way of getting him to consider any form of medication. One family member has been addicted to valium for 30-odd years, another attempted suicide not long after being put on an SSRI and as a consequence he is deeply mistrustful of all medication.

Sazzle41 Wed 24-Oct-12 15:18:45

Hi again, if he seems happier already, yes its sensible advice, trust isn't instant, you need to build your counselling relationship so go for the 2nd appt asap then see how he feels re the work error. If they are as nice as he says at his new job, putting his hands up may then just be ok/slapped wrist. If it helps, 'catastrophizing' is one of 11 common distortions in thinking that depressed or anxious people do..... ie, things seem worse than they are because you lose your sense of perspective.

If its client related and an error thats financial he should own up asap, if its client related and he got one bit of the spec or pitch wrong again own up asap or that could make it worse.... As he is fairly new, how hard can they be about it, we all learn differently in a new job and u can't expect perfection from word go (tell him all this...)....And the longer he dwells on the error, the worse he WILL (how do i do italics?) feel: ie. fess up and the relief will be huge trust me ... as the anticipation is often worse than the outcome.... Hugs....

CinnabarRed Wed 24-Oct-12 15:31:47

I have worked in my firm for 16 years and have never yet come across a work problem that wasn't improved by sharing. In fact, at my firm, it's actually difficult to get promoted above a certain grade until you have made an error, because they want to see how you handle it.

I came very close to making a fuck-off huge mistake that would have cost my client £200m+. Calling the client to tell them was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. It helped enormously that I had 6 extremely senior people in the room with me when I made the call, all of whom had worked with me for hours to find a solution, passing me notes as the call progressed to help me handle it. The client wasn't happy, at first, but we sorted it out. In fact, 12 months later I was myself promoted and that client's testimonial about my performance was a key factor in my promotion.

Your DH and his firm have a common goal - sorting out the problem, whatever it is.

As soon as he tells someone, they can start working together towards a resolution.

He may or may not get into trouble once the problem is solved, but mostly people are so glad to get the problem out of the way that they let punishment slide (if it would be merited at all).

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