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Mentally destroyed from work

mw2530

Well-Known Member
I have reached the point of complete mental exhaustion from work. I do accounting and tax work for a corporation and we had a major issue with our year end financial statement audit. I won't go into all the issues but we have been going at it for over 5 months now and it has taken a toll, mentally and physically. We are getting towards having things finally resolved, but it has been a long road to get there and now we are way behind on other work that has been put off that normally would be done. I was handling things pretty well and had a good attitude while going through this but I reached a breaking point 5 or 6 weeks ago. I mostly enjoy the work I am doing so that is why I have been able to sustain a good attitude for as long as I did. To pile on more, the employee that reports to me is on leave for personal reasons so I am forced to take on the work she would have typically done. It feels like I rush from one deadline to the next for 5 months straight. Honestly, it goes beyond that, various issues that have come up over the years. I am not paid a dime more for it because I am a salaried employee, aka legalized theft for employers.

A month or so ago I was having bad chest pains which arose due to job related stress. I've had chest pains before due to work or other stresses but this time seemed worse and they lasted a week or so. I finally decided to go to urgent care to check to make sure everything was alright. They thought everything seemed ok but then referred me to the ER and all tests came back normal.

It has had an effect on my personal life as I have had to miss group runs and other social things that I like to go to. As a single person, this just means I rarely have chances to meet new people. When I have went to the group runs, there were a number of occasions where I have been so anxious and stressed from work that I did not really enjoy my time and could not communicate effectively. Communication is difficult to begin with on a normal day, but when I am anxious or overly stressed I just seize up. Cannot process words or what people are saying. Diminished ability to string together sentences or sound coherent.

Unless I totally switch careers, other jobs are not going to be any different. Prior to my current industry job, I had spent 10 years in public accounting and was beat into a pulp every tax season due to high levels of stress and long hours for 3 months every year. My current job is still my best bet because I am effective at it and under normal circumstances it would not kill me like it has done this year. I am paid fairly well, but have paid a high price for it given my prior high stress and heavy workload jobs. I feel like I need to make money while I have a job that I am capable of and save as much as I can. If I could go back, I would not choose accounting as a career as it has been involved excessive work and many jobs did not pay that well given the extensive school and certifications that I went through.
 
Have you built up a client base over the years? Maybe you can start your own company.
Nope, I no longer work in public accounting so I now only do work for the company I work for, rather than many clients. While working in public accounting, I came to hate dealing with clients and people and the general lack of respect and value they had for my services. So while I would like to work for myself, I don't want to deal with people and there trivial problems.
 
My son (16 w ASD same as me) goes straight to ‘the world is ending’ sometimes over something as simple as breaking a dish in the kitchen. I see him doing it, and I know I do it too except my stress is more about how I’ll feed my family if I can’t handle my job situation anymore.

We’re not wealthy, neither is he. But he has a small savings. I recently figured out how to help him in these situations. I told him to start with a simple question. “Do I have enough money to pay for this?” Simple math. The broken dish couldn’t cost more that $25 to replace and I have $100 right now in my savings account. I can replace it today. This solves my problem, and now I’m not scared. Now I can go about finding a solution that probably doesn’t involve replacing a $25 ugly dish that nobody would even miss anyway.

It turns off the fight-or flight response we get to stressful situations. Once it’s gone, then decisions get a lot easier.

As an adult, the question becomes, ”Can I get another job?”. If so, then “Would my world end if I lost this job?”. No? Then it’s OK if I fail at this job, this task, right now. I can walk out today and I’ll be good. Not great, just not dead.

It’s not as easy as I’m trying to make it sound, but it’s pretty basic. Turn off that fight-or-flight feeling. After that….. decisions get much clearer and maybe that pain in the chest goes away, even if you don’t quit your job.
 
@mw2530

I have to criticize your past behavior a little here, but with good intentions.

Your employer isn't going to change their behavior unless "encouraged".
Either
A) They don't know what they're doing, or
B) They know, or should know, but they're just pushing you until you push back

If it's (A) you're partly responsible. This doesn't affect what you need to do, but it does affect the range of communication styles you have available (not much though).

A note about (B): this approach is taught in "management schools" (though indirectly OFC). It's also a common symptom of a poor manager, where the issue is not managing individual workloads reasonably.

Either way, you have to act, but if it's (B) you can lean on them a bit more openly, because your direct manager is exposed.

Since you've run your own company, I think you know what you have to do. If that's the case, but you haven't had any practice, I'd be happy to exchange ideas following the "problem shared ..." principle.

If you're actually uncertain, I can make some suggestions OFC.

In case you're wondering, I'm a firm believer in "minimum drama", and I won't suggest any high-intensity methods. Discussions should be polite and calm. Note that it's highly likely will they do the work figuring out your leverage without your even mentioning it.

Naturally you can't avoid a serious discussion here. It sounds like it should be done as soon as possible too. The "missing subordinate" has been let off the hook, so you have as much leverage as you'll ever get.
e.g. one easy path is to get a "doctors note", perhaps about the negative effects of prolonged stress due to over-work, and politely request reduced hours and a holiday. What can they do?
 
At the bare minimum, you need a long vacation. At least you'll have time to ponder things.
 
Can’t emphasize enough how much music can help decompress stress. Ambient music usually does best.
Also consider if being around people after work adds to your stress. I only mention it because it does me. I have to have alone time.
 
I understand the type of stress you are talking about. I worked for the state and was paid per client, regardless of how many hours it took. In addition, the state would add on work such as "go into computer and raise the rate for PCS for every client you have and get it done by Monday." Over and over and over again. I felt compelled to keep going because of the benefits to my clients who were developmentally disabled and often had no one to advocate for them.

I got totally, totally burnt out.

To recuperate from a burn out I need lots and lots of sleep time. If you have any sick or personal leave, I would suggest you take it asap. Doesn't matter if the job gets done or not. That is your supervisor's probem to worry about.

If this were me, I would have to take a lot of days where I did nothing and it takes longer and longer to recuperate. You are younger, I think, so you may bounce back more quickly.

I would tell my supervisor that there was too much work for me to do and what does the supervisor see to solve that problem. Because it is the supervisor's problem. You don't need to threaten to quit. You can just make her/him aware of the problem He or she may not say or do anything for you right that minute, but assistance of some sort may arise as your supervisor talks with his or her supervisor about the problem.

While this does not solve everything, it can solve enough to get you (me) going again. I used it several times with a big state agency and did get something back for it.

I wish you the best. I know how awful that all feels.
 
Can’t emphasize enough how much music can help decompress stress. Ambient music usually does best.
Also consider if being around people after work adds to your stress. I only mention it because it does me. I have to have alone time.
Yes, being around others does increase the stress. But I also will never find a relationship if I always stay home so I have went to different group hobbies at times, but that backfires majorly when I am feeling over stressed from work. The social function because overwhelming because I cannot focus or communicate well which just causing extreme levels of stress. The chest pains have typically been after the social functions but it is a recipe for disaster when I go into a social situation already tense and stressed from work. It feels like I am damned if I do, damned if I don't. Which is basically me life story.
 
@mw2530

I have to criticize your past behavior a little here, but with good intentions.

Your employer isn't going to change their behavior unless "encouraged".
Either
A) They don't know what they're doing, or
B) They know, or should know, but they're just pushing you until you push back

If it's (A) you're partly responsible. This doesn't affect what you need to do, but it does affect the range of communication styles you have available (not much though).

A note about (B): this approach is taught in "management schools" (though indirectly OFC). It's also a common symptom of a poor manager, where the issue is not managing individual workloads reasonably.

Either way, you have to act, but if it's (B) you can lean on them a bit more openly, because your direct manager is exposed.

Since you've run your own company, I think you know what you have to do. If that's the case, but you haven't had any practice, I'd be happy to exchange ideas following the "problem shared ..." principle.

If you're actually uncertain, I can make some suggestions OFC.

In case you're wondering, I'm a firm believer in "minimum drama", and I won't suggest any high-intensity methods. Discussions should be polite and calm. Note that it's highly likely will they do the work figuring out your leverage without your even mentioning it.

Naturally you can't avoid a serious discussion here. It sounds like it should be done as soon as possible too. The "missing subordinate" has been let off the hook, so you have as much leverage as you'll ever get.
e.g. one easy path is to get a "doctors note", perhaps about the negative effects of prolonged stress due to over-work, and politely request reduced hours and a holiday. What can they do?
My supervisor is more aware than anyone on this earth of the level of workload since he has been going through it right along with me, only he has it worse. He is working a ton of hours, but handles the stress well from my perspective. Although, he has shown plenty of frustration as well. I would also consider him a workaholic and he gets paid really well so I think that can make a difference in terms of how much bs you are willing to endure. He also plans to retire soon so he probably can see the end of all of this for him. Overall, we work well together and I consider him one of the best supervisors I have worked with. He does tend to have high expectations when there is a lot of work to do and seems to expect you to sacrifice your personal life at times to get the job done. He is a bit old fashioned and has the mindset of nothing negative can come from hard work and thinks the younger generations do not have nearly the work ethic his generation does. Which I do agree to some extent, but I disagree on some things and he fails to consider how much the world has changed in the past 30 years. I can also see where too much hard work can have very negative consequences such as health problems and a low quality personal life.

His supervisor is basically the top 1 or 2 of the company, but is not involved in the audit at all and really has no clue what we go through. I get the sense that he does not really care either, really only seems to care when there is a problem. Based on things I have heard and experienced, the accounting team is less valued than other areas in the company. That is a real shame. I think my boss could do a better job of advocating for his team though and ask for more resources. The workload in accounting for the company has increased the past few years, but our staffing is the same or lower than what it has been historically. Part of the issue is there is a big shortage of qualified accountants in general so it makes hiring difficult.
 
Agreed. I was sympathetic and understanding too. But that doesn't solve the problem. He may "know" there is a problem, but he needs to hear it in concrete terms from someone else. And you have to go up the chain of command to get problems addressed.

I took some problems as high was the director of the entire state agency.

I'm not saying you should do what I did. Just pointing out a different way of looking at and tackling the problem.
 
@mw2530

This is an "actions over words" situation. It doesn't matter at all why your boss isn't defending you.

This is both a useful indicator, and a sign that you know what's going on, but haven't wanted to contextualize it:
only seems to care when there is a problem
It's useful because what you need to do can be seen as creating that problem - the one that will force "them" to take action.

You almost certainly don't have to "attack" your boss to succeed. But he is probably more than 50% of the problem, so you can't get sentimental about this.
That's why something indirect like a "doctor's note" might be a good option. If you hand your supervisor something he can use with HR or with his supervisors, lowering his "startup threshold", it will probably be good for both of you.

Two exercises:
1. Think about what took your ex-subordinate away from this difficult situation. Don't assume that the words match reality, even if it's health, (or "health-adjacent"). Aspies aren't good at lying about stuff like this, but we're an exception to the rule.
2. Ask yourself (really think about it) why she wasn't replaced, with the process starting as soon as she indicated she had to leave her position.

(2) sounds like a backstab to me.
 
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That's why something indirect like a "doctor's note" might be a good option. If you hand your supervisor something he can use with HR or with his supervisors, lowering his "startup threshold", it will probably be good for both of you.
Excellent point.
 
Yes, being around others does increase the stress. But I also will never find a relationship if I always stay home so I have went to different group hobbies at times, but that backfires majorly when I am feeling over stressed from work. The social function because overwhelming because I cannot focus or communicate well which just causing extreme levels of stress. The chest pains have typically been after the social functions but it is a recipe for disaster when I go into a social situation already tense and stressed from work. It feels like I am damned if I do, damned if I don't. Which is basically me life story.
Self care first. Heart attack won’t help you in a relationship. You will eventually burn out and crash no matter how much you resist it.
 
His supervisor is basically the top 1 or 2 of the company, but is not involved in the audit at all and really has no clue what we go through. I get the sense that he does not really care either
Usually, the only way to the top is by climbing over those at the bottom.
 
This is definitely the nature of accounting work. You have to put the rest of your life on hold and being able to maintain that balance with good habits. Anything off can put you in a tailspin- no doubt! Everyone is different- it's really hard.

Even though it will be pretty much the same wherever you go, maybe you can find small differences that will help. Will making somewhat less at a mom and pop have less stress overall? Like if there was a mistake, would it be more difficult to deal with or definitely easier overall even if it did take 5 months? You can usually make good or decent money in accounting, and typically more money means more stress. Maybe in your non-busy season, can you look for other avenues to consider? A long vacation right after busy season is completely appropriate. Maybe call in sick for a few days and if it's more than 2 days, schedule to see your PCP, CVS Minute Clinic, and/or Urgent care for an appointment with a medical note even if you're just going through the motions. Don't necessarily take the medications prescribed to you if you think you're being drugged psychologically and you don't think you need it, but go through the motions to cover yourself enough and let the doctors who work with you cover themselves too.

Talking with a therapist can help a little too.
 
This is definitely the nature of accounting work. You have to put the rest of your life on hold and being able to maintain that balance with good habits. Anything off can put you in a tailspin- no doubt! Everyone is different- it's really hard.

Even though it will be pretty much the same wherever you go, maybe you can find small differences that will help. Will making somewhat less at a mom and pop have less stress overall? Like if there was a mistake, would it be more difficult to deal with or definitely easier overall even if it did take 5 months? You can usually make good or decent money in accounting, and typically more money means more stress. Maybe in your non-busy season, can you look for other avenues to consider? A long vacation right after busy season is completely appropriate. Maybe call in sick for a few days and if it's more than 2 days, schedule to see your PCP, CVS Minute Clinic, and/or Urgent care for an appointment with a medical note even if you're just going through the motions. Don't necessarily take the medications prescribed to you if you think you're being drugged psychologically and you don't think you need it, but go through the motions to cover yourself enough and let the doctors who work with you cover themselves too.

Talking with a therapist can help a little too.
Yes, based on conversations with others who work in accounting and with many who do not, employees in the accounting field tend to be overworked.

I did work for a small CPA firm for 3 years prior to taking the job I currently have now. The hours were a bit more reasonable, but it did not come without other drawbacks. Since it was a small firm, our clients did not have a lot of complex technical tax work, which is what I excel at and what I enjoy doing. When there was complex work, it was not easy to complete because of our firm's limited resources. The bigger challenge for me was not the tax work, but the client relations side. Speaking and meeting with clients was stressful and I was not very good at it. I did not have the patience to tolerate their disorganization and more often than not general lack of financial literacy, even of many small business owners. I guess that is in part why they needed us, but the work itself was not a great fit. I was also their during the Covid years and dealt with the litany of government stimulus and tax break incentives.

My current job does seem to be a good fit under normal circumstances. But it just seems like there is always "something" above and beyond the normal level of work. That "something" could be any number of things.

I can't help but feel like my accounting jobs have taken a lot more from me than what it has given back to me. I always enjoyed school much more than any job I have had.
 
Yes, based on conversations with others who work in accounting and with many who do not, employees in the accounting field tend to be overworked.

I did work for a small CPA firm for 3 years prior to taking the job I currently have now. The hours were a bit more reasonable, but it did not come without other drawbacks. Since it was a small firm, our clients did not have a lot of complex technical tax work, which is what I excel at and what I enjoy doing. When there was complex work, it was not easy to complete because of our firm's limited resources. The bigger challenge for me was not the tax work, but the client relations side. Speaking and meeting with clients was stressful and I was not very good at it. I did not have the patience to tolerate their disorganization and more often than not general lack of financial literacy, even of many small business owners. I guess that is in part why they needed us, but the work itself was not a great fit. I was also their during the Covid years and dealt with the litany of government stimulus and tax break incentives.

My current job does seem to be a good fit under normal circumstances. But it just seems like there is always "something" above and beyond the normal level of work. That "something" could be any number of things.

I can't help but feel like my accounting jobs have taken a lot more from me than what it has given back to me. I always enjoyed school much more than any job I have had.
Keep what you have in the mean time, but look for another medium sized firm that might fit your needs and preferences better. You definitely have some leverage to look around with a much needed field that not everyone is skilled at and you have experience. I'm going to guess you can afford to take a (slight) pay cut if it meant you didn't have to work with the clients at all and/or maybe you only work with clients if it's always with someone else. Since you already have a job, you can ask other companies you potentially want to work for if you can always buddy up with other(s) if you work with a client(s). I think it's okay to put it out there in this context that you want minimal client contact since you have a job and experience. That way, you can not waste your time with companies that want someone that wants to work with clients specifically.

It can be frustrating on both ends- working with client and being a client who doesn't know how to organize things (including myself kind of, sigh.) If you have a firm that creates organizer(s) for your clients, this might help a lot. Organizer(s) might have to be customized between the client(s), but it will make one's job easier in the long term potentially. Also, I hope your firm is reasonably technology savvy and communicates well with their client. I'm thinking of changing clients/firms, but switching too often isn't a good look. If I'm in a situation where it's in the middle of something, I need the current people I'm working with to finish that off first. My family likes the current accounting person I have and are blaming me for everything, but he doesn't do any of their work and is terrible and getting back and explaining things to me sometimes.
 

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