I’m avoiding work

If you need me, I'll be the one hiding under her desk

Topics: Since You Asked, workplace, depression, Panic Disorder, Anxiety, antidepressants, psychotherapy,

I'm avoiding work (Credit: Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Readers,

Some have written lately asking where the column is. It’s still there. The best way to read the column every day is to bookmark http://www.salon.com/topic/since_you_asked/ and click on that every day. This bookmark will always display the latest column and list all the others. You could even put this link in your calendar, like iCal, with a reminder every day, and then you could just click on the column every day that way. Or you could just call me up on the phone and we could chat every day and I could read the column to you over the phone. Nah. That’s not practical. I could, however, make a daily podcast of me reading the column out loud, which I should have done 10 years ago and still haven’t gotten around to it.

Anyway, I will run this notice up here for a few days so that folks will see it.

You could also subscribe to the Salon email newsletter and see how that works for you. It works for some people.

Salon is publishing a lot more content these days, so each item, unless it is marked to remain high on the cover, quickly slips down “below the fold” as we say in the newspaper business. Now, on to today’s letter, which oddly enough concerns procrastination, among other things.

Hello Cary,

I’ve written you with complicated personal issues before and while you haven’t responded, just the process of writing to you seems to help me get things straight in my head. Still, this time I could use a little of your insight.

Background: I’ve always been a high achiever, perfectionist, with severe procrastination issues. I went to an Ivy League university, worked two high-pressure jobs over 10 years, dealt with really terrible relationships (one very emotionally and verbally abusive), and finally ended up taking a new job almost three years ago in California, closer to my family. When I got out here I finally realized I badly needed therapy. I was dealing with panic attacks, self-harm/suicidal ideation issues, borderline eating disorder, etc. I was diagnosed with a panic disorder and severe depression.

Fast forward two and a half years: I have been seeing a wonderful therapist for the past two years and have made a lot of personal strides. I’m on antidepressants and in a truly loving, supportive, amazing relationship with a very wonderful man, and I’ve largely stopped my self-destructive behavior. I’m getting my finances in order and getting better at paying my bills on time. Also during this time my father left my mother, she had a bit of a breakdown, one of my aunts and my grandmother died, but I am still much more psychologically healthy than I’ve ever been.

My issue is that I’m self-consciously ruining my current job through truly epic levels of procrastination. I’ve procrastinated so much that I basically haven’t done any meaningful work in the past year. If I was my own boss, I would have fired me (for some reason they keep giving me really good reviews). To be clear, this job is a step back professionally from my previous positions and I am terribly bored with the work I’m expected to do. So, I just don’t do it. I sit at my desk every day, play on the Internet, and don’t do my work. When I want to take PTO, I wait until the last minute to tell my manager, thereby pissing her off. It is really awful. I try all the positive self-talk techniques my therapist gives me but they don’t have a long-term effect. I try berating myself — that really doesn’t work. At this point, all I want to do is hide under my desk.

I’ve spent my whole life excelling and I’m shoveling this job right into the garbage disposal of life. My boss is a terrible manager and I have pretty much no oversight or direction so I just kind of float along but I feel like that is NO excuse for sub-par performance. I’ve applied for several other jobs and am in the final round for one but I am worried I’ve become a very lazy person. Do you have words of wisdom for this kind of situation?

Personal transformation = professional meltdown??

Coming Out of Depression

Dear Coming Out of Depression,

I don’t think you are a lazy person. I think you are grieving and coming out of depression and working a boring job.

It is OK to suck at a boring job. Some might say any job no matter how humble should be approached with good old American sticktoittiveness (my mom loved that word) and elbow grease (my dad loved that phrase) but I do not agree that sticktoittiveness and elbow grease are so great. I think letting go of pointless, mediocre jobs is fine, especially if you are grieving and coming out of depression. And if you can afford it. And if you are not feeding starving children. And if people are not depending on you for their day-to-day survival, and if you can pay your rent and basic expenses for a few months. Save yourself! Take the risk! Quit this job and hope you get the next one and that the next one is better and if not at least they didn’t fire you!

You need more time to grieve and heal. If you cannot afford to quit your job, then at least schedule a two-week vacation.

Your “procrastination” is actually your wiser self telling you that doing meaningless work is an outrage to the soul and that more real grieving needs to be done. If your job does not allow you to grieve, then your job is standing in the way of your being fully human and your job has to go.

Have faith. Have faith that you will be taken care of. You will be.

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