Lack of a Career Due to Anxiety Disorder (aka How Can I Make Money Ever Again?)

Discussion in 'I Have a Question...' started by Druidblue, Oct 10, 2013.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Druidblue

    Druidblue Member

    Heya! :eagerness:

    First, this will be long (I'm verbose by nature. I don't abide the TL;DR concept. =P) Second, I ask that when considering my question you try hard to think not of your own possibilities, but what I'm explaining is possible for me- things aren't black and white, or the same for all people, so generic answers don't apply. Thanks in advance for those considerations.

    IF you don't want to read my backstory, I will put a break farther down before my primary question, though it may be harder to answer- and it's already a doozy.

    So, quick (ha!), necessary backstory: Out of college, I worked roughly 8 straight years, 7 days a week, 10-24 hour days, 365 days a year. I lost my entire 20s after college to work. I was at four companies, although I was in essence doing the same thing after the first, which was simply a different development toolset. I was a virtual reality developer that first position, creating software training programs on PCs for Fortune 500 companies like Motorola or Duracell factory workers to learn how to use complicated, multimillion dollar equipment. For instance, the first project I worked on replicated a pager (remember those beeping things?) robotic assembly line machine. The virtual recreation would emulate the precise outcomes the real thing would do. Proper steps for operation were programmed in, but the student could try anything (if they didn't know what to do next) just like they were on the job. If they hit the wrong thing, the machine would respond/jam/crash the same way it would in reality for them to resolve. Complex, but effective training. (If you put worker students in front of a real practice machine, they get shy and afraid to touch things. Not so on a computer program.)

    After that first position, our company was acquired by a multimedia developer- that company and the next two (all I've worked for since college) were the same thing as the VR position, only using a two dimensional program without a virtual world. More textbook and diagram based questions and computer-graphic pictures instead of the fancy virtual environments. Same training, same type of companies (more focused on the car manufacturers like Ford and BMW though). Fun fact: The 3rd company did not paid me owed wages and expenses totalling $7800 one period, which I never got and couldn't sue for), ruining my credit to this day over a decade later. Yay corporate privilege!

    The workload was impossible- as the developer, everything funnels through you, and other people can't help (there can only be one "hot copy" of a program, so even if others do work, it has to be transferred to your final version and all the bugs reworked, which takes almost as long if not longer than doing it yourself to start. To compete in the industry, all of the employers would ask you how long something would take. Most would be 8 month to 1 year projects. They would sell them at 2 months deadlines. (Nowhere near enough time.) If other people on the project messed up- writers made mistakes? Artists didn't get you art? Your fault as the developer (obviously not really, but you'd get the blame.) Most of the time I'd get work from others, they did it wrong. No number of meetings corrected that. I would have to redo 60% of all work I'd receive. I'd almost religiously have to stay up overnight 2-3 days in a row before a deadline working every second to cram as much together as possible... and get no thanks (only blame for problems).

    In the end of my career, at the last company, we merged with another branch of our own company. Four developers came in, but they used a competitor's development tool. The four of us who worked as developers there originally all took training in their tool of choice. I had no problem, aced the training. (Preferred my tool, but then again the 2nd company I worked for created that tool =P). They would NOT learn our tool. While out of work for two days with anxiety disorder sickness/exhaustion, their two lead developers sabotaged my brand new project. They switched this program with a vital new client to their tool, with a custom code base. That required me to ask them how to do EVERY action using their custom code- my training in their program was nullified. Once work began, and deadlines approached, they refused to help me and no number of warning flags to my managers caught their attention. Shortly afterwards, I was taken off the project and given no work of consequence for three months, hoping I would quit. They finally "downsized" me (cough fired-in-all-but-name cough) at the end of 2002.


    So, now that that is explained, here's the situation I've been in and am in still.

    Since the end of my career in 2002, I've been unemployed. I can not find a work environment I can function in. I am on the "best" medications we can figure out for my anxiety disorder and depression (the anxiety is the problem in regards to work) and I am in therapy, with it not helping impact these issues. Due to the anxiety disorder, there are MANY things I can not do. Due to my experience in my career above, there are some things I'll never do again. The combination seems to eliminate all possibilities.

    Here's a list of things I can not do because of my anxiety disorder (remember, all of these are "CAN NOT"):

    Travel- local or long distance. Work phones. Do sales. Work with clients. Work with the public. Stand for any length of time. Physical labor. Work in a dangerous environment or with dangerous tools (assembly line, lawn mowers, chainsaws, power tools). Have "set" breaks (15 minutes at 3:30). Have non-flex hours. Be unable to come and go freely, without warning, possibly for the rest of the day.

    Here's a list of things I will not longer do or require to do in order to keep a career for any length of time:

    No more overtime. I lost my 20s to it. I'm done with losing my life to it. Life is not about work only. I must do something creative- I am a creative person, and denying that by having me say, pack boxes or clean, means I'll stop caring and do the job poorly out of disinterest and frustration at wasting time. I must work on a computer. It's what I know and the only thing I've known... but I also am not a master of everything like I was before (in fact, currently I'm 10 years out of any tangible skill sets. I can do anything, I simply haven't been paid to do so, and won't work on something until I get paid- See: Overtime/(working for free) above. I am a "maestro" personality type. I identify by my career. For instance, I would be "a virtual reality developer", not "an associate at company X". 75% of people identify as the latter. When I have a career- this is why I use career over "job", which denotes simple labor- I envision a bookshelf behind my desk full of books on the career. You notice a janitor has no such bookshelf. That's a clue I couldn't do that- it's not a career position to invest in.


    How do I earn money? I've spent almost 11 years trying to find a way, and can not. I can not return to school (not that you learn something tangible enough to use in a work environment. I went to a leading university and didn't learn anything "tangible", like any of the programs that would be used in my future positions.) The obvious answer I get all the time is "work from home". Doing what, and how? If you stop and think, working from home means contacting strange people by phone or online, convincing them to hire you, and then working closely with them to finish a project. I don't have the skills to create something from scratch to sell without interaction. I can't travel, even locally, and can't understand people on the phone. I also hate and can't do sales, so trying to sell things of my own would be a disaster.

    Professionals have been stumped. I've been stumped. My cats are stumped.

    Any ideas on how to fit my needs and FEW desires to make money again in my life?

    Thanks for reading, and if you made it this far, you've won a new car*. I appreciate any brain storming, though keep MY limitations in mind. You might have anxiety and do fine with people or travel, but that doesn't apply to me, and I can't "get over it". >_> Appreciate your time and best wishes in your own health and endeavors.

    *new car offer not valid on Earth
  2. themute

    themute Active Member

    Finding a job, especially now is really tough. I'm really sorry all of that happened to you. It's sad that work environments can be so hostile. Maybe you could be a writer, like a right a book or some stories? I don't know if that's exactly a job you would want but maybe it would be something to try? You could also do technical writing for things like instruction manuals and text books, they really just need people who understand the material and also have a good grasp on grammar and sentence structure, and it seems like you have that. Good luck though! I can't get a job right now either, so I feel your pain.
  3. meaningless-vessel

    meaningless-vessel Well-Known Member

    I think that you may need to consider not what you can't do - but what you can/want to do. Rather than limiting yourself for a high proportion of what jobs are out there, look at what skills/qualities you have that you can offer to others in the event of finding a job.

    And i'd also reconsider the not doing something because you hate it. As themute said - finding a job at the moment is challenging. And sometimes we have to step back in order to take 2 steps forwards. If that means working in a warehouse packing boxes - it's still a job that pays whilst you are looking all the while for something you would be more interested in.
  4. Druidblue

    Druidblue Member

    Thanks for the replies!

    Actually, themute, my dream career would be to be a sci-fi/fantasy author. Unfortunately, over this past 10 years I've examined it thoroughly. I've met with five published authors in my state (and their experiences were reinforced in a book by Stephen King) that you can't make a living as an author alone. All five authors (well, one was a couple of women) had "day jobs" that were their focal point, and they wrote in their "spare time" (read: instead of sleeping). One of them has several successful fantasy trilogies on the market, and he has to work at the State during the day. He said he made enough money for his first series to "reroof his house". The true problem with writing is getting published, and it isn't about talent per se- you have to have some talent, but even bad writers get published. They have to have the luck to suggest something that hits the right nerve at that point. Still, getting published is akin to winning a lottery. Being able to survive as a writer only is akin to winning a second lottery. That's right out of the mouths of those authors. (And hearing that greatly depressed me, as writing IS a great fit except for the expectation of travel/public appearances, but not all authors do that.)

    As to the concept of taking a job to pay the bills while working, fighting_the_tide, you're right- that's what most people would be able to do. The problem for me is that if I take that box-lifting job, I'll need to spend 100% of my off time each day "de-stressing" my anxiety just to function and return to that job the next day. This means taking such a position eliminates my ability to look for something better. The question then arises, how long do I take a meaningless job to "pay the bills" for? I lost my 20s to that earlier career working the entire decade and nothing else, I lost my 30s to unemployment and this anxiety disorder, and the inability to answer this question. Now I'm 41 going on 42, and if I take such a job, how long do I do it before stopping to try to move on? 1 year? 4? What will it achieve? If it doesn't apply to my resume in terms of a "career" going forward (e.g. "graphic design"), and since I'll spend all of the money earned supporting my costs (with that income, I'll have to purchase and pay for all of my medical costs, food costs, etc. Things I'm not paying for in any great amount now due to aid from lack of income.)

    You're absolutely right that that is what most people should and would do. The problem is it doesn't resolve my situation due to the anxiety disorder- if I'm working, all of my extra time is spent trying to just manage to get to the next day in a functioning format. This isn't as much of a problem if the environment is a fit- in my former career, I was mostly left alone at my desk throughout the day, wearing headphones, listening to music and able to come and go freely from my desk at any point. There were other issues in the career (the travel, amount of work with clients hovering over your shoulder, and the preposterous overtime- er, always-time? >_>) That's the last issue with a box stacking type job. I don't have familiarity with them, but I know if I do physical things around home, I have to always have a drink handy. I have to sit in between moving things. I need to keep cool, so often have to wander over to sit in the AC or in front of a fan. And I've never sustained such work for longer than an hour tops, if that. I can't fathom getting through 6 or 8 hours of being expected to constantly move and lift things. Even just standing upright and doing nothing, after a while my anxiety will cause me to get heavy in the neck and shoulders, and need to lean against the wall/counter/etc. The issue with something slightly different- packing boxes, for instance- is the time frame. Packing boxes would be an assembly line type thing, with scheduled breaks at precisely 3:15 for fifteen minutes. I never know when I'll need to step away and for how long. Sometimes, I have to leave, without the ability to communicate, for the rest of the day. (That would be a worst case, rare scenario, but it has happened a few times.) More often, I'll have to step away for twenty to thirty minutes, though I won't be at full capacity afterwards in all likelihood.

    Anyways, I appreciate those suggestions. As you can see, I'm in a sticky wicket. At least, I think that's a valid British idiom to use for this situation. I wouldn't know, I'm not British.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2013
  5. JmpMster

    JmpMster Have a question? Message Me Staff Member Forum Owner ADMIN

    Since you currently have nothing but spare time right now, I am unsure where the issue is in pursuing some income as an author, even if it is not Stephen King level income. With the added benefit of being able to assuage your sensitive maestro personality type in the process by being an author.....
  6. Druidblue

    Druidblue Member

    Oh, I guess I didn't clarify that well.

    I DO spend time writing. It's simply not a solution to my problem. It would be a year or more to have something possibly worth attempting to publish, then I would face the problem of not having resources to send out the necessary letters, as well as then hoping I win that publishing "lottery". Even if I did succeed, all of that time and energy doesn't forward my situation... I'd still unable to live on my own, pay rent and bills, etc. That's always been depressing to me, that careers exist where you can't even function on their salaries in most instances. The average sci-fi author makes less than $6,000 in a year... the non-average writer with a great hit and contract makes $20,000. Neither are enough to live on realistically.

    But, I do spend each day writing, since it's the only thing I have to do. I just can't make money at it based on how the career/society works.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 12, 2013
  7. pickwithaustin

    pickwithaustin Staff Alumni

    There are a number of occupations that you can do from home that require very little interaction with others. You may have to sit and brainstorm some of them, maybe do some Google searching for ideas. One I can think off right off is medical transcription. I know a woman who works from home, makes decent money, and never speaks to anyone. She receives the audio and transcribes into the database program. You would probably have to take a course in transcription, trade school style. There are always solutions, one just has to open up, think out of the box, and sometimes seek out a new paradigm.
  8. Druidblue

    Druidblue Member

    Thanks again for those responses. Big update as of Wednesday:

    It was my second federal disability appeal hearing over the past decade. I was denied the first time, the judge was cold and the vocational expert said I could be a "lumberjack"- despite my inability to work in dangerous environments, with power tools, etc. Basically the first hearing was a mess, and my situation was not properly explained, as their ruling indicated.

    Wednesday was the opposite. The judge was warm and confused at how I was sitting there, as he said most people in my seat don't have a high school degree or any skills, let alone being at my creative, educational and intellectual level. (Er, not trying to brag, but one of the problems I've faced seeking disability for my anxiety disorder is I have a genius level IQ, so most hold the belief that there's obviously some way for me to earn income, without comprehending the problem isn't ability to perform a task at a given moment, but sustain said task.)

    I represented myself (the lawyer I had the first time hindered the process and then tried charging me despite understanding I'd had no income at that point for seven years) and to put it in simple terms: Nailed it. I was able to explain the severe limitations I face- not on an inability to do a job, but on the inability to sustain that job. I had my mom testify, and the judge asked if I wanted to ask her any questions. As I was quickly formulating a way to ask her about her take on my ability to do simple physical labor jobs (not really capable) the judge suddenly said, "Keep in mind you don't have to ask her anything. I want to say this looks very favorable for you right now, and your medical records seem to mostly back up what you're saying."

    At the end, the vocational expert spoke. Last time I could be a lumberjack. I still laugh. This time, he listed "kitchen helper", "fast food worker" and "cleaner and polisher". I nodded, because I had discussed all those types of positions and explained why I'm incapable of sustaining such work. But, the way it works is this: He has to create a "hypothetical" person in my situation, and determine if there's any work a similar hypothetical person can do. However, the judge then asked him if you factor in the fact in a full time situation, I'd miss one day per week and be off-focus up to 40% in a given day, what impact would that have on the hypothetical's employment? That's when the vocational expert gave the magic words: "That reaches preclusivity."

    In English, that means the vocational expert- with 3 degrees and 30 years of expertise in vocational counseling- said, "this guy is unable to work".

    It's great to hear, because it means in a few months I may receive income for the first time in 11 years. It's also shocking to hear, because you just had a career expert validate what you've been trying to say to others: You're disabled.

    So, I have mixed emotions. It's good news in a way, but terrible news in another. Still, I am desperate for income, and to stop bankrupting my family, so I have renewed hope now! >_>
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.