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“Soul-destroying” - sometimes that’s exactly how Work feels for me

(252 Posts)
AKAmyself Sun 18-Feb-18 11:31:53

Right, I know I sound ridiculously ott and melodramatic but I wonder whether others feel the same and most importantly how you cope.

I’m in my 40s, 2 pre-teens dcs. I’ve worked hard to hang on to my career and am by and large happy I did, as its always been important to me to have my independence, financially and socially. I have a good, professional job in a large multinational. I earn a good salary. Thanks to it, we are able to afford the lifestyle we’ve always wanted for our kids and for our family - not talking luxury but a comfortable home, lovely holidays, extracurricular activities without having to worry about money etc. I am really grateful for all of this.

However... my job is also very stressful, and I suffer a lot from anxiety (sleepless nights etc); I am profoundly unfulfilled, as I don’t particularly like the sector I’m in; The management style is brutal and (my eyes have slowly been opening to this, and now I cannot unsee it...) sexism and mysoginism are rife and slowly, consistently chipping away at my ambition and self confidence.

I have worked really hard on myself the last few years - seen a psychologist for burnout; learned mindfulness; invested a lot in leadership and coaching training. For a while all this made a difference and I found a good balance. But it keeps coming back, this soul-sapping feeling that I’m just a rat in a cage, that the effort it takes for my mind and my soul to keep it all together, that the amount of work I have to put into showing up every day at work with the right “can do” attitude to manage whatever amount of shit will be thrown at me; and then to show up at home with the right “being” attitude to be there for my children and dh... well it’s just too much. I feel utterly lost in all of this - like life is slipping one worry at a time.

I am aware, as I write this, that I will come across as entitled and privileged. I am, as I said, very grateful for all I have. I guess perhaps I need to grow up to the hard fact that life is hard, that being stressed at work is natural, etc etc. I just crave a little lightness, a little decompression time.

The thought of going back to work tomorrow after half term (where I checked my emails daily, and could not stop thinking about work at all) fills me with so much dread it’s like a lead weight in my stomach.

I wonder if others feel like this - or have felt like this, and managed to turn things around eventually?

Inseoir Sun 18-Feb-18 11:43:48

I ask this as a genuine question - what is the point in all the 'benefits' you have from your work if that work is clearly sapping the life out of you? There are people in the world who genuinely have no choice to work in horrific conditions in order to keep body and soul together. But you are incredibly lucky not to be in that position. And yet you're still acting like you're as trapped as they are. Why?

littlepill Sun 18-Feb-18 11:44:23

I had exactly the same and ended up working for myself. I’ve lost the big salary, but I cherish the freedom and independence and have felt huge happiness at generally being around for the DCs. I do still work hard, though, just differently. For me, getting a diagnosis of ASD helped understand the reasons, I’ve tried twice to go back to a secure post like you describe and both times I ended up leaving after just a few weeks. It made me realise the value of my life as it unfolds - sounds dramatic but I am a single mother & parents are dead.

Can you work differently? Go PT maybe?

Tinycitrus Sun 18-Feb-18 11:47:44

Yes.

This is normal. I don’t know what the answer is.

AKAmyself Sun 18-Feb-18 11:49:42

Inseoir, I feel as you describe - trapped. As to the “why” I am not sure. It is clearly ridiculous, when you put it down on paper. I guess I am just very scared of letting go of what I have in pursuit of a simpler life - because what if im still unhappy then?

RealityHasALiberalBias Sun 18-Feb-18 11:51:35

I feel this too. Love the work, but management is a complete mess and the relationship between talent / hard work and promotion prospects is completely broken. The majority of people at my workplace are thoroughly demoralised.

I’m only still there because the company makes decent pension contributions, but I don’t know how long I can stick it out.

AKAmyself Sun 18-Feb-18 11:52:40

Thanks Littlepill. I don’t know what freelance would mean for me. I worry I would simply stop brushing my teeth and watch Netflix all day!

Inseoir Sun 18-Feb-18 11:53:58

I think that's a totally valid question to ask yourself and you do need to pinpoint as carefully as you can the source of your unhappiness.

I would say though that it's not the case that all jobs are like yours. Like littlepill I work for myself. I found working for other people too enraging (and I use that word accurately). I've worked for myself for the last 5 and a half years or so and while it's quite insecure in some ways and very hard work I could never ever go back to working for someone else - it just doesn't fit me.

Try to figure out what it is you want, not based on how you want others to see you or a fixed image of 'success' - it may take time and effort to work it out but it is worth it, I promise you. Even if you only figure it out when you're 60, it will be worth it.

AKAmyself Sun 18-Feb-18 11:55:16

Tinycitrus and Reality, May I ask how old you are? I wonder if there is something that happens after you turn 40. It’s like the shine is off everything. Everything feels like a hard slog

starbrightnight Sun 18-Feb-18 11:55:41

Yes. You are not alone. I could have written your post (especially the soul destroying parts), though I wasn't as high powered as you sound, mainly because I couldn't stick at jobs where I was required to be less than human to survive. I was good at getting jobs, and was very capable and worked hard, but the 'me' side of things suffered so after 2 or 2 years each time I had to have a break for my own sanity.

I don't have an answer other than time will change things as your children grow up and the pressure to maintain a certain material standard of living subsides.

I always viewed our 'rat race' time as temporary, something we were doing for a set period of time to ensure a stable environment for the children to grow up in a nice area with nice schools etc. But I always had the end in sight, when I could stop pretending to be something I'm not - I couldn't have got through it otherwise.

A couple of years ago my H and I gave up our jobs (his involved travelling to London each day) and downsized and now we do other things, creative things that we enjoy while we live off the equity from the family home, plus H's fast eroding pension pot until our state pensions kick in in a few years time.

We are much happier now. I hope you can find a way through, with a picture in your mind of where you want to be in the end, something that will make you feel what you are doing is worth it.

In the meantime, can you find any spare time to do something entirely for yourself? Like playing music, doing pottery, writing - something therapeutic that connects you with your real self - it might make a difference and lead to a vision of where you want to be when your children have grown.

I don't see a partner mentioned in your post, so not sure if you are on your own or not so can't comment on your private life, so to speak. But if you are with someone special, making time for that relationship would be crucial to maintaining your emotional wellbeing. Regardless, I wish you well.

littlepill Sun 18-Feb-18 11:55:46

I think you soon find your soul and don’t turn to Netflix when your salary doesn’t magically appear every month grin That aside, not necessarily freelancing - can you use your skills elsewhere, or work differently in the same role? Could you find your same job abroad? In a different company? This thread is so depressing. It shouldn’t feel like work, if you enjoy it...

AKAmyself Sun 18-Feb-18 11:58:34

Thanks Inseoir. Right now all I want is a long lie-in! That’s the thing that really keeps me stuck. I can’t visualise an alternative lifestyle, I just know I’m finding it it increasingly hard to stick with this one. But it feels a bit reckless to chuck it all in without a plan! And planning takes time, energy and optimism. All of which are in short supply rn...

AKAmyself Sun 18-Feb-18 12:01:26

I do have a partner! And he’s great. He feels very much like me though, about his work. So neither of us makes changes as we don’t want to saddle the other with the responsibility of having to be the sole/main breadwinner

AKAmyself Sun 18-Feb-18 12:06:06

smile littlepill, that made me smile. And you are so right. I am indulging into a bit of a moanfest. I guess I should trust in my resourcefulness a bit more.

AKAmyself Sun 18-Feb-18 12:07:40

Thanks Starbright. I like what you describe... just curious was it always an intentional path for you? Did the knowledge that you would one day step off the rat race sustain you during the hard slog years?

Badwifey Sun 18-Feb-18 12:24:44

I was in your position a few years back. I hated my job. Every morning I woke with a feeling of dread and the weeks dragged by, whereas the weekend went by in a blink of an eye. To my family and friends my job seemed great. I was on quite good money, enough to be able to afford to buy my own aapartment. I had career advancement prospects and the possibility of earning more. No one understood how I felt. When I got pregnant with my daughter I knew it would be even worse having to leave her to go and spend 40 hours a week doing something I hated. Myself and dh talked it over and I decided to go back to college to retrain while I stay at home with her. Things are tight. We don't get many holidays etc. But it's the best decision I've ever made. I'm still studying and I'm hoping my degree will open a lot more doors for me in a couple of years when I'm finished. The sense of relief was immense when I made the decision to quit.

You need to have a chat with your dh and decide what's best for your family but you cannot continue to work where you feel the way you do. It will eat away at you until you've nothing left.

Inseoir Sun 18-Feb-18 12:27:35

You sound as if depression has crept in there too, which is contributing to the lack of headspace and ability to see a way forward. You sound so exhausted. The first thing you need is clearly a rest.

Can you take a week off any time soon? Make that a first step?

rookiemere Sun 18-Feb-18 12:30:43

It sounds like you never get to switch off.

The checking emails every day when you were off - was that self imposed or expected by work ? What would happen if you just didn't check them?

I'm asking because sometimes pressure is self-imposed and sometimes it is from the organisation. If it's external rather than internal then could you move department and would that help?

SunshineAndRaindrops Sun 18-Feb-18 12:34:50

Can totally relate! I'm in my early thirties, just about to have our first child and I'm in the lowest paid job I have ever had since leaving school. I was always career, power and money driven but a change in management really opened my eyes, I had burnt out and it reached a point I could not get out of bed for two weeks. I was always stressed, and took it out on my husband who put me right in my place. I finally left, one of the hardest decisions I have ever made and now my work / home life has never been so balanced, however this is heavily reflected in my pay. It took a lot of planning but we get by just fine, still enjoy holidays and currently having renovations done. You must do what feels right for you, we only get one life. Wishing you luck 🤞

ginyogarepeat Sun 18-Feb-18 12:37:58

One life. You have one, short, life. If you don't have to work in a profession that is destroying your happiness, don't. Would part-time be an option, even elsewhere? Or a change altogether, something that you actually care about.

If you can reduce your hours I'd really recommend spending the time not at work doing whatever makes you happy - reading, exercise, volunteering.....gives a much greater balance to your life and makes the shitty times that bit less shitty.

Much luck!

starbrightnight Sun 18-Feb-18 13:03:33

AKAmyself yes, definitely an intentional path as far as I was concerned and knowing we would one day step off was what got me through.

During one of my breaks from a full time pressured / responsible office job I went 'temping' and in the evening trained as a complimentary therapist. Doing something more meaningful was therapeutic in itself and while I did work self employed from home for a short time I didn't earn enough so went back into the fray. I also sometimes had a problem with some of the staggeringly 'entitled' clients who didn't know they were born, but that's another story.

It's great that you and your partner feels the same, because when the time comes you will both be up for the changes you want to make to your lives.

Do you talk about your shared dreams now? My H and I used to talk forever about what we really wanted to do when the time came. It really helps to have that vision.

About 3 years ago we downsized from a village to a cheaper suburb of the nearby big town, and gave up our jobs. We did a fixer upper to make it happen financially. We viewed that as a stepping stone while accepting that it might have to be as good as it gets and everything is a compromise.

We have now just found a little house that needs a lot of work just up the lane from where we brought up our family. We can only afford it because it's in such bad condition but we've put an offer in and hope for all it's worth that we get it, then we will have come full circle, living in the same nice rural area but without the stress of pressured jobs and in a more modest house where we can see out our days. It'll be hard work doing it up but we think it'll be worth it.

starbrightnight Sun 18-Feb-18 13:09:44

Agree about volunteering. I did that for a while and I swear it helped me more than it helped them. It helped me feel more connected to people, doing something meaningful helped to balance out the pointless and cut throat office culture in my day job.

Inseoir Sun 18-Feb-18 13:10:55

I think what starbright did is really admirable but I would be really wary of putting all your eggs in a future basket - I know too many couples that did that only for one of them to die before they ever got there. Life has to be worth living now as much as later.

IheartNiles Sun 18-Feb-18 13:13:31

I feel the same op, am mid 40s and trapped in a money pit of mortgage, school fees, commuting. I hate my job and the utter all consuming nature of it, it’s bad enough worry but not helped by everyone working there being so demoralised and pissed off. Am literally counting the years and months until I can leave and get a simple job where I can do the work and bugger off, on time and not think about it all. Have visions of me and DH in the next 10 years downsizing and relocating to somewhere simpler, cheaper and more beautiful.

starbrightnight Sun 18-Feb-18 13:16:37

Inseoir that is very true. Living in the moment is so important for emotional health, and my H could do that. I never seemed to be able to - I had to have that distant vision. There have been huge bumps along the way that could have derailed us entirely and I am only now just learning to live in the moment and enjoy each day, and now that feeling is on hold because of my hopes for this little house.

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