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When Anxiety and Depression Affect Your Ability to Work


I just want to feel normal.

I’m lying here on the couch. Doing absolutely nothing. I’m currently on leave of absence from work for the forth time in a year. The trash truck just went by; it’s trash day, and I had not taken the trash down to the street. It is overflowing. There are plates all around and the dishes need to be done. Yet, I seem unable to do these things, let alone make myself go to work.

I’d like to say this is a fairly new issue for me, but looking back I’ve always had some form of the same symptoms. I was gifted as a young child, but since as far back as I can remember, I struggled with finishing any kind of work. I got overwhelmed by large groups. I always wanted to be doing anything else other than the task at hand. As I got older, I failed to turn in work I actually somehow finished. I eventually dropped out of high school, even though I was in the 99th percentile on the graduation test.

The pattern didn’t change much as I began to enter the workforce. I could work circles around most everyone else — I’d shine as an amazing employee with leadership potential. I’d finish everything well before it was needed and have time to spare. Then after about a year, I’d lose steam. I’d put off any kind of work I could. I’d avoid customers. I’d cancel appointments. I’d start sabotaging myself in any work capacity, which always inevitably led to me being let go.

I started a family, and worked through the struggle I was dealing with. I gradually moved up with each transition. Eventually I was able to buy a house and had a great job working from home for a very well-known tech company.

Then it hit.

I reached a breaking point much worse than all the others. I don’t know what exactly caused it — maybe it just wasn’t the type of work I could handle as well as what I had been used to. Perhaps it was just something that was built up and had finally reached its peak.

Regardless, it happened. I broke. I seemed unable to do even the simplest of tasks. I began to avoid the basic functions of my job. I began to do things I knew would eventually get me fired. Things that as I did them, I would immediately hate myself for doing.

And so the cycle began. Anxiety would make me feel like I couldn’t do what I needed to do. When I’d do whatever I needed to escape the debilitating anxiety, I would then sink into self-loathing and eventually depression.

These things are powerful lies. I ended up tearing apart my family. I’ve lost people I love. I’ve searched and searched for relief anywhere I could find it. I’ve searched for answers. I’ve prayed. I’ve went to doctors. Searched for a diagnosis. Medications. Spent time in an intensive outpatient program. I’ve tried everything.

I’m still trying. It feels hopeless. As I stated before, I am on leave of absence. I haven’t worked in several months. When I did work, I was able to maybe make it 15 minutes into the work day before having to leave. I feel like a failure because of it. I have responsibilities to my family and other people in my life, and can’t seem to just “do” what a “normal” person seems to do every day.

I just want to be happy again. I want to be able to work and not be filled with fear at the thought of it. I want to make it through a work day and not be so drained that I can’t fathom another day of it. Or even better, I want to enjoy my day. I want to make it through a work week and know I have worked all my hours and did a good job, not fear I did something wrong or that I won’t have a full paycheck. I want to be able to spend my time at home before and after work not obsessing over what work will be like the next time I’m there and actually enjoy my time at home. I want my time at home to not be me absorbed in a video game just as a way to escape the pain in my life. I want to be able to enjoy more than five minutes of a movie without my thoughts going elsewhere. I want to be able to feel things like love, joy, contentment. Not anxiety, fear, depression and hopelessness. I want to be a fully functioning member of society who is able to work day to day and spend time with people in my life, not be annoyed by every inconvenience around. I want to have the energy to help people around me and contribute to the relationships I have. I want to be able to spend time with my kids and enjoy their company.

So I still search for answers. I’m not sure what the cause is at this stage. Doctors have suggested ADHD, general anxiety, depression, bipolar… all of which have overlapping symptoms. All I know is since as long as I remember I’ve struggled with anything having to do with school or work. I can’t enjoy a nap because it’s wasting the free time I only have because I’m not working. I can’t enjoy a movie because that’s so much time. I can’t go out to eat because it’s time away from other things. I feel like I have so much I want to do and there is no time.

I still have hope that answers will come, and I’ll one day feel “normal.” Today is just not that day.

Getty image via z_wei