Q. I frequently hear people make the statement, “this job is killing me” but I have never really taken it seriously until I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. It is true, the stress of our jobs can really kill us if we are not careful. Am I the only one who finally gets it?
A. Thankfully you are not the only one who gets it but I think it is safe to say you are in the minority.
When my daughter was two years old (she is now 29) I became an assistant head nurse for an inpatient 50 bed psychiatric unit. I was in excellent health. (It is important to remember this).
After one year, I became the head nurse. I was tired and feeling more stress but still overall very healthy. I remember as an assistant, when I would walk into management meetings, I couldn’t help but notice the signs of stress on the faces and bodies of my co-workers. I remember thinking, “I don’t want to look like them.”
My stress was greatly amplified in my elevated position. A department head came with extraordinary responsibilities coupled with never ending demands. It was really impossible to do everything required of me.
I started noticing that my hands and feet were often blue or purple when I was cold. My joints were often painful. I had this weird rash across my nose and cheeks. My fatigue was unmeasurable. But I kept going.
One day my director of nursing said I absolutely had to go to the doctor, so reluctantly I made an appointment. What happened next, defined the rest of my life.
My doctor assessed me and ordered lab. He said based on my physical symptoms I might have Lupus. My blue hands/feet, possibly Raynaud’s phenomenon. The lab was negative for Lupus (thank goodness) but he said I had dangerous levels of stress. So here was his prescription:
1. Do not take work home. 2. Do not come in early. 3. Do not stay late
He wrote this on his prescription pad. I thought it might be a prescription for a drug to calm my anxiety or ease my depression. AND he said if I didn’t deal with my stress better, I WOULD DIE AND SOMEONE ELSE WOULD RAISE MY DAUGHTER!!!!
When I showed the prescription to my DON, she just smiled. Since I never took Mindreading 101 I assumed she was thinking, “not if you want to stay in management.”
I quit that job 3 months later and never looked back. There is no job worth dying for, NO JOB!!!!!
Vicki L Mayfield, M.Ed., R.N., LMFT Marriage and Family Therapy Oklahoma City
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