Trauma Recovery and Employment
By Michele Rosenthal
Honestly, I don’t know how we do it. It’s so difficult to manage to cope through the day – get out of bed, shower, interact with friends and loved ones, eat, navigate the hours – it can be almost a Herculean effort to get through a regular day and hold down a job when you’re struggling after trauma. And yet many of us do…. at times. Many of us also, on the road to recovery, take time off to get our heads straight, regroup, focus and try to get grip on things. More than once I found myself back at my parents’ house needing a safe (and cheap) place to lay my weary head.
The facts of my employment history are not always pretty: During my PTSD decades I had 11 jobs in 5 industries over 13 years because sometimes I could hold a job – and sometimes I really just couldn’t. Sometimes the job was something I could do despite my brainfog, and sometimes it really just wasn’t. Sometimes I was healthy enough to leave my apartment, and sometimes I just flat out wasn’t.
Recently, one of my clients took on a job that was extremely stressful and triggering. It was, as she put it, “Sort of a dream job.” The only problem: it was creating nightmares!
After struggling through the first week it was clear that the job was sending her into a tailspin. The question: What to do?
So often in post-trauma recovery we’re faced with the vast chasm between what we want, what we’re able to have, and what’s actually good for us at the time. My client came to the decision it was necessary to give up the job and switch to a position that was less stressful. She asked my opinion. I wholeheartedly agreed. Here’s why:
While in recovery we need circumstances that support us and bring as much peace, order and calm as possible. Working in a triggering environment is not healthy for you or anyone else involved either.
When I faced this question myself, I went into finance (the hum drum of fund management) because the pace was mellow, I didn’t bring home the work, I experienced zero stress on the job and it was a cushion for my emotions at a time when I really needed that.
The sooner you make the choice to support your recovery – and this includes all ways – the better. You can always go back to or go after your dream job when you yourself are back in a strong and healthy mental state.
That’s my opinion and experience. What’s yours?
We’ll be tackling the issue of mental health and PTSD in the workplace on tomorrow’s episode of YOUR LIFE AFTER TRAUMA.