I hate work, all of it, with a passion

A reader writes:

Let me first say that this email might come across as whiny and/or juvenile, but I want you to know on the front end that I truly want input and help.

Have you ever heard of someone who hates work? I don’t mean hates their job, their boss, or their coworkers. I mean hates work period. Any work. With a passion.

I have hated any sort of work since I was old enough to have chores growing up as a kid (I am currently in my late 30’s if it matters). Even back then, I would forego getting an allowance in order to avoid doing my chores. I hate work so much I feel like it is a dark cloud that will follow me the rest of my life because work is inevitable. I feel like I would be a better happier person if work just wasn’t in my life. I have tried numerous jobs, organizations, companies, and have exhausted all the ideas I have and all hope in finding something I can at least tolerate. If I didn’t have a family, I think I would truly be happier if I were living in the woods or on the street, homeless.

For the longest time, whenever I am at work and feel particularly overwhelmed (which is often), I will just sit at my desk and shake uncontrollably; almost like I have hypothermia (my hands do actually turn ice cold when I’m shaking now that I think about it). Sometimes I will dismiss myself and go to the bathroom if it gets too bad and come back once I’ve calmed down. Sometimes I feel like if anyone at work, no matter how nice they are or who they are, were to speak to me I would go off on them or do something even worse. It actually happened once, I really laid into a man I work with for no reason at all and when I was confronted about it later I was able to play it off as a joke (thankfully it was the week of April Fools Day).

All I can think of while I’m at work are the other things I could be doing with my time, people I could be helping, family members I could be visiting, books I could be writing/reading, music I could be listening to; all of which have to take a back door to work. I also can’t stand having a boss and the fact that another adult can tell me what to do.

Even when I do have a job, I do as little as possible. I am on social media constantly and click off of it onto an excel sheet whenever someone walks by. I play games on my phone, I text anyone that I think will respond do me. I am a terrible employee and do just enough to keep my job. I was the same way in school. I would do just enough work to keep from failing. I don’t like being this way. I want to be honorable. I want to be normal. But I have a wife and child who have to eat and have to have a place to live and the only thing worse than work is seeing them go hungry or evicted from our home (my wife doesn’t work because we both want her to stay at home with our daughter). At least I have been able to hold it together for their sake so far.

Do you think there is something, some job that everyone is meant for? If there is something for me, it is elusive and I haven’t found it after years of searching. Or I wonder if this goes deeper, like if I have a psychological problem. Maybe it’s as simple as getting a prescription from a doctor. I just don’t know if there is such a thing. Have you ever heard of anything like this before? I would love your input because I have no idea what to do. I see all of the posters on your site who seem to like their jobs and I can’t help but being extremely envious. Please help.

First, you don’t sound whiny or juvenile. You sound incredibly unhappy!

I do not, in fact, think that there’s some job that everyone is meant for. I think that an awful lot of people work only because they need the paycheck that it provides, but that they don’t much like their jobs. The people who love their jobs are the lucky ones; they’re not the norm. (That’s especially true if you take a worldwide perspective and don’t just look at the U.S.)

But you’re beyond not just liking your work; you sound pretty actively miserable. That part is the part that I think might be something you can change.

The first thing I’d try is therapy, actually. Not because you’re broken for not liking to work (you’re not), but because you’re so deeply unhappy with it. Ideally, you’d be seeing this as a trade that you could be reasonably content with: the employer has something you’d like (money) and you have something they’d like (work, performed reasonably pleasantly). But that’s not how you’re experiencing it, and it’s worth exploring why.

I’d also look into whether there are solutions that get you away from the type of work you’ve been doing altogether: Could your wife be the one to work and you to be the one to stay home with your daughter? (There’s nothing that says it has to be divided the way you currently have it, after all.) Could you each work part-time so that at least you have more of the free time that you want and less of the misery-inducing time? Are there wildly different lines of work you could explore, ones that wouldn’t have you in an office at all? I don’t know what the options might be, but I’d put everything on the table and give it all real consideration. You shouldn’t have to be this unhappy.

But no matter where that leads you, please include talking with a therapist in the overall plan. I suspect there are deeper issues here than just not enjoying work, and there’s no shame in that.

Good luck.

{ 628 comments… read them below }

  1. De Minimis*

    I never like to do internet diagnosis, but I agree therapy should at least be explored. This is way beyond the normal “would rather be elsewhere” feeling that a lot of people have at their jobs.

    1. Eric*

      Start with your general practitioner. They will be able to help you far better with a diagnosis.

      1. EW*

        But be careful with this! Some GPs like to prescribe psych meds without sending you off to a psychologist/psychiatrist. See your GP to get a referral but be wary about taking any meds without being formally tested and speaking with a trained psychologist.

        My GP tried to prescribe me some pretty heavy anti-anxiety drugs for asthma attacks without a referral to a psychiatrist. I told him he should have his license revoked for attempting to do such a thing and went to a trained therapist who agreed with me that it was asthma.

        I’m not saying that no GP can be trusted to give out psych meds, but that you should be informed and properly diagnosed before beginning a course of treatment with meds.

        1. De Minimis*

          I agree, this has happened to me on a few occasions in the past, though I think the doctors may sometimes assume you’re also seeing a specialist.

          The worst was in college, I had a doctor just give me samples of an antidepressant over and over again.

          1. jamlady*

            Ah that’s horrible! I’ve gone in the past and simply said “I’m feeling x and x, my usual at-home methods aren’t working, please refer me to a therapist” and I’ve never had anyone argue. But I agree – if they try to just give you meds and send you on your way, press for the therapist. I have a lot of anxiety problems and am a life-long sufferer of depression but I’ve been lucky and I’ve never had to take medication for it. Therapy works really, really well for me.

            By the way, OP’s body shakes at work sound like when I have a panic attack. I worry about OP having that symptom so often. I really love therapy! It’s so great.

        2. Three Thousand*

          I did the opposite. I asked my GP to prescribe me my psych meds because I was tired of having to pay for a psychiatrist who didn’t take insurance, and she told me she wasn’t qualified to do that and to stop taking my psychiatrist for granted. Heh.

        3. Pennalynn Lott*

          And I had a GP who told me that I didn’t have clinical depression, so there was no way he was going to prescribe me antidepressants. Instead, he told me that I needed to stop worrying about my career, and to stop hanging out with my friends. What I needed to do, he said, was to get married and have children and stop being so selfish.

          I reported him to the state board.

          1. Pennalynn Lott*

            Oh, and I subsequently saw a psychiatrist who said I was very much suffering from clinical depression.

            1. DevAssist*

              Pennalynn Lott- I know this post is from forever ago but I just had to tell you that I LOVE your username! LOL

          2. Brandon*

            Wow another ignorant person who thinks that not having children is selfish. Good that you got rid of him

        4. Anx*

          I have prescription I haven’t filled that I got at the GP. We did talk a lot about mental health, but I still want to see a specialist. However, it’s not an option. I don’t think it’s the best practice, but seeing a specialist is a financial burden I can’t bear. I imagine that many doctors feel this way.

          (Also, I was complaining about physical symptoms of anxiety)

        5. Justin*

          My GP is pretty good with psych meds….sort of. lol. It’s more a trial and error thing, than anything else. Even with a psychiatrist. Also, the meds might kill your motivation even further, or make you forget how to do simple things like math, or heaven forbid, alter your personality.

          I know for myself, ADHD meds do the opposite for me. If I take an adderall, I don’t want to work at all. I either want more adderall, or I want to have my friends over for pool and videogames, loud music, and other fun stuff.

          Anti-psychotics make me psychotic
          Anti-depressants make me psychotic and depressed

          Yeah…meds don’t make me want to work. If anything they can cause Amotivational Syndrome in normal people, either during therapy, or when they stop “working.”

      2. Jeanne*

        I disagree. If EAP is available, start there. You can usually see a psychiatrist for meds and a psychologist for talk within your free sessions. Then those psychologists are knowledgeable about the psychologists in your area for your referral for more services. It worked fabulously for me.

      3. PegLeg*

        As a therapist myself, I would advise against starting with your GP unless you are only seeking medication. If you want someone to work with you through this using many sessions of talking, reflecting, challenging, prompting, brainstorming, problem solving… that is more a job for a therapist who has been trained specifically in therapy and diagnosing only mental disorders (for example: LPC or LCSW). They will be able to meet with you weekly, or even more often than that, and help work through things. If after meeting for a few sessions the therapist or you feel that medication may also help, they can refer you to a psychiatrist or you could go to your GP then. My personal viewpoint is that in most (though certainly not all) cases you should try talk therapy before beginning a medication regime.

        1. lexicat*

          The GP can provide a referral to a therapist; they don’t all just give you medication. I went to my GP when I knew I needed therapy, because he was able to suggest a psychologist, and the referral meant I wouldn’t need to pay the whole cost of therapy out of pocket.

        2. Liz*

          Depending on your insurance, you may be REQUIRED to be seen by and get a referral note from your GP before the insurance will cover a specialist like a therapist/psychiatrist/psychologist. Check your insurance policies and if you need to see a GP first, state your reasons very bluntly when asked the reason for your appointment. “I need to be seen by the doctor so I can get a referral for a therapist.” The person taking your call deals with insurance companies all the time and will understand completely.

      4. Panda Bandit*

        I think it’s better to start with a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist. They can both diagnose. The clinical psychologist can provide therapy if needed, the psychiatrist can prescribe medication if needed.

      5. TheSnarkyB*

        This is not good advice. GPs/PCPs are not better qualified to diagnose a mental health condition. If you can’t afford a psychiatrist, or if you want a talk-based approach, look for a low-cost mental health clinic. You’ll be most appropriately diagnosed by someone who specializes in mental health.

    2. Lucky*

      This, yes. The shaking and cold hands sounds an awful lot like a panic attack to anxiety-prone me.

      1. Kelly O*

        That’s actually what I thought initially too. (My symptoms were different, but those were things I was asked about.)

        Nothing wrong at all with speaking up and figuring out what’s going on with you. (Although it feels harder, that’s for ding-dang sure.)

    3. Van Wilder*

      Agreed, although “seek therapy” is a path to a diagnosis, not a diagnosis. But here is an internet diagnosis: those shaking/cold attacks you have sound like panic attacks. I have had them, I have sought therapy, and I have gotten better. I still don’t love my job but I am not miserable everyday.

      1. Green*

        There is nothing wrong with an “internet diagnosis.” It usually starts a discussion rather than ending it, and you can’t go pick up some pills with your internet diagnosis. :) It’s like a “You have these symptoms? Talk to your doctor about …” ad.

        1. OhNo*

          Better, even, because you get a lot of different opinions. I like groups that freely discuss mental health issues, because then you learn more about different symptoms and how they actually present in real people, rather than just this laundry list of symptoms that you may or may not have.

        2. fposte*

          I’m going to demur–I think internet diagnosis can be a real problem sometimes. I think it’s one thing to say “I think you should check with your doctor/a therapist” or “Hey, I have anxiety, which affected my work, and I’ve found some things to be helpful.” It’s another thing to say “It sounds like you have anxiety/ADD/Asperger’s/BPD.” No reasonable trained professional is going to diagnose over the internet, and untrained professionals doing so–especially in a comment section like this where it happens in numbers–can be overwhelming and disheartening and deeply inaccurate. Today we seem to be skirting the problem reasonably well, but we don’t always.

          1. Green*

            The only reason it would be disheartening to learn that it sounds like you may have those things is if you attach a stigma to them yourself. All the advice here is “for your consideration” and can be deeply inaccurate. But the mental health advice typically comes from an “I or someone I love shared [some or all] of your characteristics, and it was depression.”

            Hearing that–even from someone on the internet you don’t know–can prompt someone to seek treatment and an actual diagnosis from their physician. tt has for me. Heck, sometimes people don’t even know what information to share with their physician and what might be relevant. I told my dad that he was an ***hole in the afternoons and he needed to tell his doctor that; turns out his diabetes wasn’t under control, adjusted his medication, and he is not an awful person to be around at 3 pm. (He was in a job that had significant discretion and a lot of power over people’s lives at the time, so it was very important that he not make bad decisions based on out-of-whack emotions.)

            Anyway, this is a board that is pretty kind and conscientious about not stigmatizing mental health issues, and includes many people who have shared their own stories in the comments, and I don’t think that it’s out of whack to kindly offer other potential causes/solutions to one’s problem.

            1. fposte*

              And again, I disagree. It doesn’t have to be stigmatized to be offputting. Suggesting therapy is a fine prompt for therapy. Suggesting that we, despite our complete absence of training in the field, think that something is wrong with the OP and that this is it, over and over and over? Offputting. It’s not like talking to your dad. It’s like having a crowd of people with megaphones say “I think you have this disease/this disorder/this illness.”

              Kindly offering solutions is great. Kindly pretending we’re doctors is not.

              1. some1*

                This, plus, when certain behavior internet-diagnosed, it’s hurtful to the people who actually have conditions and the people who love them.

                My coworker asked me out and started following me out to my car -> “He’s got Asperger’s.”

                My boss is verablly abusive -> “She must be bipolar.”

                1. Ruffingit*

                  As someone who works in the mental health field, I get so tired of the misuse of diagnoses especially bipolar. For pete’s sake, people really need to understand what that actually is before using it as a descriptor for someone who may not have a psychological diagnosis, but rather may just be a jerk. Bipolar does not equal jerk behavior. Just saying.

            2. ThursdaysGeek*

              And I’m going to agree with you and disagree with fposte (kind of). If we are saying “this is what you have” then that is wrong. But if we say, “hey, I have similar symptoms and this is what I had” especially if there is treatment, well it’s good to see what some of the options are.

              For instance, my brother-in-law was diagnosed as depressed, but the ant-depression meds did nothing. Someone suggested a vitamin B-12 deficiency, and that turned out to be the problem. I never knew that a vitamin deficiency could be a problem with depression, and it turns out, his doctor didn’t consider (or know) that either.

              So, all of these comments are diagnosing, but are providing ideas. If several people have similar symptoms when they have panic attacks, and the doctor doesn’t even consider that, it’s at least worth bringing up to the doctor. Let the doctor diagnose, certainly. Let the OP know they aren’t alone, and others have found workable solutions.

              1. OhNo*

                Let’s not forget that getting an “official” diagnosis can have negative consequences, too, like the stigma against mental illness, and the impact it might have on things like custody cases, etc.

                Getting advice from strangers on the internet might not be ideal, but for some people it’s their only option. Getting an “official” diagnosis might not be possible or wise for everyone, so advice from non-doctors on the internet who have experienced similar symptoms might be all someone can get.

              2. JJ*

                I had the same sort of issues and it turned out to be a magnesium deficiency! I also needed vitamin d and b-12. Many times general malaise can be attributed to some sort of deficiency. I started out with the GP route and all he did was prescribe an anti anxiety drug that only made me worse. once i did some research and took control of my health, i started some vitamin / mineral supplements and am off the prescriptions and feel great. take some time to invest in your health and once you start to feel better things will fall into place! best of luck!

                1. Rene UK*

                  Apparently magnesium deficiency is *really* common. The thing is that only about 1% of your magnesium is in your blood-the rest is in the cells, and pulled out of the cells to maintain your blood concentration. So, you can have a perfectly normal blood concentration–measured in blood tests–and be very, very low in the cells(to measure the amount in the cells requires unusual testing). I found that taking magnesium prevents migraines, and makes them less intense when I do have them. It also keeps my mood up and..er…keeps the digestion moving, if you know what I mean.

            3. Not So NewReader*

              Great point about diabetes, Green. I have seen that one myself and have had folks with diabetes talk to me about it. “I get edgy and I become someone I don’t like. I can’t stop.” Those are some of the things they tell me.

              OP, not all behaviors are totally psychological in basis. Some stuff is driven by changes in our bodies. Ask anyone who has had a weak thyroid, weak heart etc what they have experienced. The bones in my ears were out of place and by the time I got help, I reeeally needed it. The doctor said, “I bet you thought you were losing your mind, right?” I said, “Not any more!” What a trip that was. And like you are saying of your own experiences, this spanned most of my life. I trouble keeping my balance and several other problems. Finally, I got to a point where I could not sit in a chair- I was totally convinced I would fall out of the chair for some unknown reason. I no longer trusted my senses to keep me guided properly.
              Please get a thorough physical. Make sure all the important stuff is working correctly- heart, thyroid, allergies, etc. If your doctor does not give you a thorough physical find someone who will. Life does not have to be this hard and this tortured.

          2. Programmer 01*

            This might sound odd, but it took an internet diagnosis (or mostly me explaining my anxiety wasn’t seeming to fall in line with “typical” anxiety I was being treated for) for me to even consider talking to my GP about having PTSD… by the time all was said and done, my GP and the referred psychiatrist were shocked I’d been coping the last 30 years with severe PTSD routinely misdiagnosed as depression and anxiety but never really successfully treated.

            I laid out what my anxiety and symptoms were, a bunch of people with PTSD said “Um you sound like me, have you thought of…” and when I looked at reasons to have PTSD my childhood was pretty much textbook. This was specifically in a forum where diagnoses are forbidden, too, but people are allowed to share.

            So people who say “Hey, I have this and it kinda sounds similar” can be huge life-savers when it comes to opening up new possibilities, and I’ve actually done the same since and seen people hit the same wall I did of “But I can’t POSSIBLY, nothing THAT awful ever happened to me, except x y and z…”. It’s a big perspective change, but as someone who spent about a year off work on medical leave and is now happily back and functioning better than ever, I owe so much of that to crowdsourcing my brain a little. Internet comments don’t take the place of a GP and therapist (and I use both in tandem) but they can sometimes add perspectives you wouldn’t have considered from people who’ve been in similar situations and found ways through them.

            For the OP, I’m so sorry you’re hurting so much inside, and feel like it’s your fault — it isn’t, you’re not fundamentally broken or anything like that because you’re so unhappy, okay? Absolutely look to see if your company has resources to let you see therapists etc (EA programs are pretty great) as they can help a LOT (and if you don’t have an EAP, a lot of therapists can manage sliding scales and a lot of other accommodations. I talk to my therapist entirely on Skype!) . There’s a reason a lot of them advertise with “are you unhappy with your job and yourself” because so, SO many people are, it’s not a cliche at all, and you don’t deserve to be miserable. I doubt your wife or daughter want you to be miserable either! There are totally solutions that don’t involve losing your home or going hungry, and without sacrificing your sense of worth either.

          3. Anx*

            I think, though, sometimes, something more along the line of “Have you considered/been tested for x” or “I have (those symptoms) and it turned out to be x” can be helpful.

            The sad truth is that internet commentators sometimes know more about a disorder or issue than a GP or they are more likely to consider 2nd and 3rd most likely situations than a doctor.

          4. Dweezel*

            I agree with you up to a point, but GPs/psychologists/psychiatrists have also been known to misdiagnose (or only partially diagnose) people at times. They’re not infallible and sometimes a person who has a certain medical condition may know more about it than a GP will (once when I requested I be referred to be assessed for Asperger syndrome, my GP told me I couldn’t possibly have it because it’s a childhood condition (it’s incurable, so if you have it as a child, you have it as an adult); another GP told me I couldn’t have it because I’d been to university (when people with AS have average or above-average IQs). I was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome in 2010. It didn’t exist as a diagnosis in DSM IV until the early 90s. I knew from my early teenage years (I was born in 1968) that I wasn’t “normal” because of my difficulty relating to others and making/keeping friends and I suffered from depression and anxiety all the time (those two conditions are very common with people with Asperger syndrome – hardly surprising because we often feel alienated and ostracized by society). When I saw my GP in my late teens and said I felt depressed all the time (unhappy at home, unhappy at school) he pretty much dismissed it as a phase, as did my parents. Later on I found a doctor who did prescribe me an anti-depressant (Prozac) and over the years I have tried all sorts of different SSRIs. I’m currently on generic citalopram, which calms me down a little and I suffer no side-effects. I also take generic clonazepam for anxiety. Most GPs won’t prescribe benzos because they’re addictive, but I was lucky to have an ‘enlightened’ (if you can call it that) doctor who said “I’d rather you were addicted to these than alcohol”, because she knew about my long history of anxiety and self-medicating with alcohol. Not that I stopped drinking when I was prescribed the clonazepam, because I was on a low dose and it wasn’t calming me down anywhere near as much as I wanted. (I should point out that clonazepam at the low dosage I’m taking doesn’t make me feel drugged or woozy, it just makes me a bit less anxious all the time). So over the years I’ve been diagnosed with depression, anxiety and social phobia. But these are all partial diagnoses imo with the umbrella diagnosis being Asperger syndrome. I’ve also read accounts of people with Asperger syndrome being misdiagnosed and placed on strong anti-psychotics, which made them worse, not better. Far worse in fact.
            So I agree that a random stranger online saying “I think you’ve definitely got X, Y, Z” is a bad idea.
            But for a random stranger online to say “You may possibly have X, Y, Z, read up on it and talk to a medical expert about it” is perfectly OK imo. And even then it may take a lot of legwork to find a medical professional who properly diagnoses you.

            1. Dweezel*

              PS This post was in reply to fposte’s post of March 31, 2015 at 12:50 pm, which starts: “I’m going to demur–”

    4. L McD*

      I agree. These are thoughts/feelings I have experienced as well, as someone with clinical depression.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      Agreed. If this were me, I would want to know why I felt that way–not because it didn’t fit societal norms (everybody has thoughts like that about work sometimes), but because it’s so intense.

    6. Jenny*

      Nothing wrong with you. You should leave the system and live in the country where you and your family can collect for a couple hours a day the food you need. Rest of the time do as you please. What you cannot is live in the system with all its perks without a job.

    7. John doe*

      Omg I feel the same exact way except, was in a drinking and driving accident from a teenage drunk driving accident 12 years ago and am stuck with a unplayable debt. Well I’m glad I’m not the only one. Not fun. Working when you despise it for half the pay because of one stupid decision.

    8. Harry Lewis*

      You are basically normal. Humans for millennia lived in social groups and carried out activities necessary to maintain shelter, food etc. most of those activities bore no resemblance to the sorts of activities people do in jobs in modern society, factory work, sitting in front of screens for hours a day, marketing, taxi driving, call-centres, sitting in meetings in offices … basically all manner of things. I saw a couple of episodes of Ben Fogle’s new lives in the wild and it had examples of people who used to do city jobs and then gave to it up to live off grid. They were with their family and seemed a whole lot happier. That said, it is HARD WORK, living off grid, but it really isn’t having a job sort of work, it is directly necessary for living and not like doing a job for some organisation. It can be difficult living in modern society and not having a job, you kind of have to be ‘self-employed’ in some way, it it hard to go against the grain – people find it difficult to accept. I speak from experience, I used to have a career but I always used to to detest working in an organisation, I used to get really stressed out and in the end I was lucky to find a way of making a small living being self-employed doing far less work than I used to.

    9. Matthew Bulger*

      I once had my superintendent tell me “It’s called work because it sucks. That’s the point.” That really resonated with me even to this day. What do you feel beyond “hate?” I usually feel a lot of despair and hoplessness myself. I usually get burned out on my jobs quickly… I have this fear of being stuck on a hamster wheel where I’m captive all day and I’m stuck doing the same tasks week after week after week. I’m currently an inspector building these luxury mansions for the ultra-rich, then I come home to my shitty apartment in the city and its a total downer. I constantly feel like I’m degrading myself spending the majority of my God-given time slaving away instead of doing the things that I want to do. I just think about the 50,000 other options that might be a better use of my time and ability to make money. Then I get depressed. Usually after about 6 months and I’ve mastered my job I rapidly begin losing all interest… I get this trapped feeling that never leaves. The psych drugs make me just stop carimg about my job (and relationships, etc. ) This is when i typicaly get firedone because my performance drops off, and I’m late everyday. Who is ever ontime to something they dont want to go to? When I’m most unhappy is when I’m in traffic or on a train and I see the millions other people stuck in the same rut I’m in. Then at night i wont sleep either because i have so much anxiety about wstinf my time. Due to my incrdible job turnover rate i have mastered many different types of work, but I don’t want to do any of them… at least not for the slim check I get for putting my life on the line every single day for a boss who doesn’t know my name and will fire me at the first mixup. So my boss can make me unhappy all day, but if I make him unhappy for one second, I’m the asshole who gets fired? I now work for myself and it’s tough, but I’m overall a lot happier. It’s stressful at times but if I don’t like something I can only blame myself and change it. Even with half the paycheck now, I am far less stressed about life now. I was a supervisor which got pretty old just sitting and waiting on shit to get done all day. I still do that work part time now as an independent contractor because its good money, but I cut grass and do odd jobs with the rest of my time whilever I try to develop somethingredients bug that will make a difference and make me wealthy. I think many people are just hung up on having a steady check and benefits, but they are missing the point of life for a very mild level of comfort. Cutting grass is the best. Try it… you can make good money, you’re the boss, the schedule is flexible, and the exercise and act of making something ugly look nice is very rewarding. And the service is definitely needed. The results are immediate and so is your pay (usually cash left under the doormat!)

  2. Katie the Fed*

    Yes, OP. I don’t want want to play internet psychologist, but please go see a good therapist! This ” I will just sit at my desk and shake uncontrollably” sounds like a manifestation of some kind of anxiety that I think you need to get to the root of.

    Very few people really LIKE work, but their dislike doesn’t rise to your level of malaise. I think you really need to see someone to work through it.

    I thought I didn’t really like my job until I was recently out for over a month. I was so bored and frustrated I couldn’t wait to get back. I still don’t LOVE it, but I like to have my mind and time occupied.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      The hate of work could be a manifestation of something else: social interactions, fear of being impoverished, fear of failure. There could have been something that happened as a child that made the OP hate work. It would take a professional therapist to get to the root of the issue.
      I know there are specialized “work” therapists, unfortunately I can’t remember the proper descriptor. I’ve heard of folks going to them to recover from hostile workplaces.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Oh interesting – I didn’t realize that was a specialization.

        If I had to guess, I’d say something to do with authority figures, but that’s as far as I want to go down that particular speculation hole…

      2. nona*

        There are industrial-organizational psychologists, who study work environments and people at work. I’m drawing the blank on the name of therapists who specialize in work, though!

        1. Manders*

          Occupational therapists, maybe? I’m not sure if you can walk into a clinic and ask for an occupational therapist, or if you would have to visit another mental health professional first to get a diagnosis and a referral.

            1. nona*

              I don’t mean that they’re ineffective, btw, I mean that they’re not completely in that field.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            OTs are more like Physical Therapists – they help you get back to performing the basic functions of life. Like, if you’ve had a stroke, they’ll help you learn how to feed yourself again, use the restroom, tie your shoes, drive a car, things like that.

            1. Elizabeth*

              OT is …. A really interesting mixed bag of what it covers. I just wrote a data collection report at work for the 72 possible triggers in a nursing admission assessment that could signal a need for an OT evaluation. Everything from the obvious symptoms of a stroke to social isolation due to living alone after retirement to managing the manifestations of autism or OCD in the workplace.

              Occupational therapists end up having to specialize in a subset of the possible therapies in order to not have the kitchen sink thrown at them. I feel incredibly fortunate to work with some fantastic OT’s who have multiple coverage areas.

          2. College Career Counselor*

            Occupational therapy is for those recovering from physical or mental illness or trauma so that they can do the daily activities of life. This could certainly include work-related activities (including developing various coping strategies to manage tasks/information). But I don’t think I would start with occupational therapy–as others have suggested, counseling/therapy to identify some of the underlying issues.

          3. Observer*

            No, occupational therapists complement physical therapists – they deal with helping people do physical tasks that they have trouble with (eg tying one’s shoes or walking.)

          4. John R*

            Occupational Therapists are people who help those with medical issues perform basic tasks, such as putting on their shoes, moving around their house, etc. Definitely not what this poster needs.

        2. Sospeso*

          I’d be curious to hear if this is limited to the OP’s work environment, though… It sounds to me like it is completing work itself, whether that’s on the job or at home completing chores.

      3. Matthew Bulger*

        I think I hate work because my dad always screamed at me to work harder as a kid and he was extremely critical of even my best efforts. In doing a project under his supervision, I never once did anything correctly. So he turned me into a yes sir – no sir people pleaser. But one day I guess I grew a spine and realized that I hate the concept of work and being taken advantage of by a superior. period. And it’s been pretty hard for me ever since.

    2. Mephyle*

      Echoing what Katie said: We aren’t doctors, and if we were, we still wouldn’t diagnose over the internet, but anxiety isn’t always what the name suggests; i.e. feeling anxious. Sometimes it is “shaking uncontrollably because you can’t face [thing you are supposed to deal with]”.

    3. Manders*

      I agree completely, there’s something going on here that’s more than the usual dislike of work (because few people love every moment of their work–but they can get through it without shaking or “going off” on people). A lot of disorders with anxiety or attention issues can produce these symptoms; OP really needs a therapist to take a look at what’s going on.

      OP also seems convinced that they absolutely must be the breadwinner for their family, and that’s something worth talking over with a therapist too. Alison had some great alternate solutions.

    4. MK*

      Even the people who dislike work usually like the results and/or get a feeling of accomplishment out of it. I happen to like my work, but I really dislike both housework and exercise. However, I do find looking at a clean flat satisfying and I like feeling energised or pleasantly tired after a good workout. What I find most worrying about the letter is that the OP seems to derive zero positive feelings out of any kind of work.

  3. Cruella DaBoss*

    Like my grandmother used to say, “Happiness (with anything, work, home life, your socks, yourself) is a choice. Choose to be happy.”

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Grandma probably never suffered from depression.

      I’m not saying it’s bad advice, but it’s not always that easy or simple for everyone. That’s not to say that’s the OP’s issues, but some things are more complicated than just trying to get over it.

      1. Kelly L.*

        +1. Depression (and other psychological disorders, such as anxiety) is a disease, and framing it as a choice can be harmful to people.

        OP, your physical symptoms, especially, make this stand out as different from the general “doldrums/blah/feel lazy today” that everyone experiences. I’ll add another +1 for therapy.

      2. BRR*

        Especially with work it’s sometimes very hard to choose to be happy. My husband hates his job and even though he is underemployed we need the money.

        Also depression, as I’ve noted I’m going through a bad bout right now. I love what I do but even right now I’m not enjoying it.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I was so miserable at a previous job that it manifested in physical symptoms – I felt like I was going to throw up as I walked in the building every morning. That’s just not healthy. But that was a job, not the career or work itself.

          I’m sorry for what you’re dealing with and I hope things improve for you!

          1. Stephanie*

            Yeah, I had a job that I hated so much/stressed me out so much I started getting an extra period a month. It happens.

            1. Tedy Mosby*

              That sounds like the worst kind of hell. I didn’t even know that could happen. I always loose mine if I’m stressed.

          2. simonthegrey*

            I worked one job where I would literally cry myself sick on my half hour commute every day. I left that job after five months, as soon as I had something else. Luckily it was temp work and I didn’t burn bridges, but I could not have stayed for the highest salary in the world.

          3. MashaKasha*

            Not a job, but I was once in a relationship that was pretty dysfunctional and not good for me. (I didn’t realize any of it at the time.) By the time he left, two years in, I had extremely low energy, was falling asleep everywhere (including at the wheel of my car), and woke up almost every night struggling for breath because of anxiety attacks. I was also extremely irritable and snappy with people. But, if you’d asked me then, I would’ve told you that I was happy and in love with a person I hoped to spend the rest of my life with! It wasn’t until the anxiety attacks stopped right after he left, that I realized that there’d maybe been something very wrong with that relationship.

            My message here is that, yes, it is often possible to “choose to be happy”, if by choosing to be happy one means denial and sweeping one’s issues under the rug. But to do so is super destructive in the long run. I could’ve ended up dead or in a hospital, and I would’ve felt happy the whole time until I’d have gotten there. Not good!

            1. Cruella DaBoss*

              I never said to “sweep things under the rug.” Choosing to be happy could mean choosing to look into changing someone’s circumstances. It could be choosing to have his wife work part time while the child is at school. Life is all about choices. Even the choice not to make a choice is a choice. (that sounded better in my head) But either way, one has to make that choice. I am as much as candidate for going stark-raving mad (4 children, 1 with autism) but I “choose happiness” instead. Trust me, we have days that there is only a teeny-tiny little bright spot, but I choose to look for it, rather than focus on the dark. It really makes a difference.
              I also think that the OP needs therapy, but he clearly says that he has always hated to work. If it came right down to it, I hate work too.

              1. Ops Analyst*

                Unless you’ve ever experienced severe depression, I don’t think you can truly understand how difficult it is to make decisions and act on things. Depression can be debilitating, to the point where you can’t get out of bed, let alone make important life decisions. And severe anxiety or depression can make it difficult to even choose what you’re going to eat for dinner.

                I have no idea if this is what OP is up against. But as someone who has suffered with anxiety and depression for my whole life (and only managing it for the past 15 years), I can tell you that “choices” don’t even enter the equation until you’re already on the avenue to recovery, which is difficult to begin with due to the nature of depression.

                I think a lot of people just associate depression with a persons situation, and that is sometimes the case, but more often it’s a chemical imbalance. It’s no easier to choose not to be depressed than it is to choose not to be diabetic (or any other number of diseases). Yes, you can choose how to treat it, but first you need to be diagnosed and then you need insurance to pay for your medication. So, telling people to “choose happiness” is not only way off base, but it really minimizes what they are dealing with.

                1. Rana*


                  And even if you’re not in a situation that is a manifestation of a clinical disorder, “you get to choose” is, frankly, often annoying advice. I understand that thinking positively is helpful for many people, but for others of us, it just. doesn’t. work. Or it works, but it requires so much effort that it’s almost not worth it. I found I did better at making changes in my life when I stopped fretting so much about whether I was happy or not, or doing things correctly or not, to be honest. And a lot of the time what made me more at peace was just accepting things as they were, rather than seeing my life as a series of problems that had to be solved in order to achieve maximum happiness.

          4. BRR*

            Thanks for the kind wishes. I felt very ill yesterday. Depression and anxiety can really affect your physical health.

            In grad school I held a music graduate assistantship and hated my teacher (I did it for the money and was going for a degree in something else). I would sit in my car before my lesson and not want to go in because I hated him so much. I then got my first job offer and accepted without knowing the salary (I also didn’t know you’re supposed to wait after they say we would like to extend you an offer). She said ,”You don’t even know the salary” and in my head I though, “I don’t even care get me out of here.”

          5. Aaron*

            Me too – the last three months at my old job I started having issues with acid reflux that I have never had before (or since). Now I have a day job making around half what the old job paid, I spend the rest of my time pursuing an art career, and I could not be happier. Which was impossible to imagine at the old job. Sometimes it really is just the job and the person are a terrible fit.

            1. Anon for this*

              When I tried teaching, which I was incredibly ill-suited to, the anxiety affected me so badly that I had full on depersonalisation. Which, as anyone who has had it knows, is terrifying. I still went in everyday and put a face on and pretended that I wasn’t going mad inside and that made it even worse. It was only when I accepted that I was incredibly unhappy and that I couldn’t continue like this that I was able to get better.

          6. Pennalynn Lott*

            My last big, corporate job was like that. It got so bad that I took 90 days of FMLA to find out what the hell was wrong with me (heart palpitations, soaking night sweats, bouts of dizziness, constant fatigue, tics and twitches, migraines). I got no answers from my GP, a cardiologist, an endocrinologist, a neurologist, or a therapist. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks after I was let go in a round of layoffs that I realized all those symptoms had stopped and I was fine.

        2. Bunny*

          We actively knew my other half’s job was putting his mental and physical health at serious risk. On occasion he’d end up taking one of his unpaid sick days (zero hour contracts SUCK) because simply getting ready was causing him to have panic attacks and uncontrollable crying jags. He was getting SI urges for the first time in YEARS. I was so scared for him, and so grateful for every day he managed to force himself to go.

          He still did it for 18 months while we looked for something better for him, because we simply did not have any other choice. At the end of the day, we couldn’t afford to have him leave that job until he had another one lined up. And it just simply took that long for another offer to come in.

          “Choosing to be happy” about something is really only possible when the thing in question is already pretty decent and when there are no mental or physical health factors involved. But that’s not the case for a LOT of people.

      3. neverjaunty*

        I’ll go ahead and say it’s bad advice. In fact, it’s incredibly destructive advice. It implies that anyone in any situation can be happy if only they make some darn effort, and if they’re not happy, why, it’s their own fault for not trying hard enough. It’s also a handy way to shut down anyone who is pointing out an actual problem, like a toxic workplace or an abusive spouse – gosh, can’t you just adjust your attitude and be happy anyway?

        1. jamlady*


          Just throwing out an incredibly personal experience, but someone said that to me when I went through a bad bout at 14 and it made me suicidal for months. I blamed myself constantly because I couldn’t bring myself to choose to be happy. Even if you don’t know someone is suffering from depression, please don’t use those words.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I agree–it’s a bit glib. I understand the intent is helpful and benign, but to a depressed person, “choose happiness” can sound an awful lot like “get over it.”

            1. Nashira*

              Or like having “BOOTSTRAPS” yelled at you over and over again. Just… Ugh. So unhelpful.

      4. Green*

        Ha. I love this response.

        People with depression can work on their attitude, of course, but it’s more “work” for people with depression (everything feels like more “work” for some of us) and may/often do require a boost from professionals, medication, etc. to get to “normal.”

        1. BRR*

          My first therapist had a motto, “If you change your thoughts, you can change your actions, which will change how you feel.” I wanted to say, “I can’t change my thoughts, that’s why I’m here.”

      5. jamlady*

        “Grandma probably never suffered from depression.”

        Took the words right out of my mouth. Not that we know that the OP is suffering from depression, but saying things like “choose to be happy” to someone who does suffer from anxiety and depression is a kick in the stomach. Like it’s our fault. We don’t need those words.

        1. Fact & Fiction*

          No, no we don’t. There are ways to encourage people to get the help they need that do not involve saying “just choose to be happy.” It is a lovely thought in theory; but if everyone COULD just “choose to be happy,” believe me, they would. I am in general a happy person, and I do believe in the power of making good choices and being proactive to change one’s circumstances when one ISN’T happy; but I also struggle with anxiety/OCD that can devolve to depression when I am just gallivanting around pretending everything is OK when it is NOT, so I know firsthand that sometimes you CAN’T just “choose to be happy.”

        2. Bunny*

          I felt both elated and horrified last year, when my grandad confessed to me (and only to me, out of the entire family! Sworn to secrecy I was!) that he’d recently been going through depression as a result of some life stresses. Horrified, because it’s my GRANDAD. I ADORE the man, and the knowledge that he was going through stresses serious enough to make someone like him suffer what I and my other half have had to deal with was deeply upsetting. But elated, because at the same time, it was clear that suddenly, for the first time in our lives, he Got It.

          We spent hours just talking about the symptoms he was having, me reassuring him that they were normal and giving him tips on how to deal with them, and just getting to know each other better than we ever have before. Fortunately, he was able to work out of his depression and return to his old self once the outside stresses and worries he was having were no longer an issue. But it’s telling that – since then – he’s never again criticised the cleanliness of my home, or our employment issues, or pressured me about my writing… or any of the little things he used to do that in his mind were expressions of love, but in mine were evidence of my failures.

      6. Sospeso*

        Yes, exactly. While I think it can be empowering for people dealing with any tough stuff to consider how their choices may affect their experience, it’s important not to place blame at the same time. Clinical depression, as Katie the Fed pointed out, isn’t often something you can simply choose to get over. If that were possible, my guess is that the rates of depression would be much lower.

      7. RegularAAMPoster-InNewField*

        I’ve found the opposite to be true. Over the course of several decades, I’ve found that such glib remarks as “Happiness is a choice” have most reliably been peddled by those who later admitted they were suffering from very severe depression, but who, for whatever reason, found it expedient to deny its existence. One common denominator among all of them was a preference for taking the depression out on others, sometimes in violent ways, which caused others to interpret their issues as residing in the anger management domain.

    2. Fawn*

      I know this is well intended, but for may people (especially those with depression or anxiety) it’s simply not as straightforward as that! They may not recognize happiness when it comes, or be fearful of it (because they’ll be waiting for the other shoe to drop the whole time), or they just may not experience happiness in a typical way. It’s difficult to “choose” happiness when you may not be clear on how it looks to you in your life, or remember how it feels.

      Getting help defining your priorities and working towards a life that doesn’t hurt, on the other hand, is a choice that is absolutely worth making.

    3. MashaKasha*

      No disrespect to grandma, but the saying makes no sense. How can I choose to be happy with a pair of socks that gives me horrible blisters? or with an abusive spouse, for example? What, do I just choose to enjoy the pain and humiliation?

      1. Kelly L.*

        Everyone’s mileage may vary, but many of the people I know who espouse “choose to be happy”seem to define happiness differently than I do, lol.

      2. sunny-dee*

        No, but you don’t need to wallow in it, either. If a pair of socks gives you a blister — throw them away! Don’t keep wearing them!

        There have been studies that if people with clinical depression force themselves to smile, it actually decreases their symptoms. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/isnt-what-i-expected/201207/try-some-smile-therapy

        I don’t think anyone is saying to smile your way through, um, a broken leg. But I think grandma’s advice (which is also my mother’s) is to own your mood. It’s not to bully, it’s to empower. Like the Serenity Prayer — change what you can (which very much includes getting help!), make peace with what you can’t.

        1. Kelly L.*

          What people usually mean by “choose to be happy,” though, isn’t “change your socks if they hurt,” it’s “grin and bear the painful socks and insist through gritted teeth that you’re happy and you’re grateful to have socks at all.” At least that’s my experience.

          1. sunny-dee*

            Well, sometimes you may be in a situation where you can’t change your socks yet. And then, you grit your teeth and grin because it’s preferable to, like, growling at people or focusing on what makes you miserable.

            /channeling my mother

              1. Not Gonna Say for This*

                Then they should get it! But making the choice to get help is still a choice some people have to make to be happy, and for some people it is an incredibly hard choice to make. Just like you make a choice to get treatment for diabetes or whatever. You have to acknowledge that something is going on, but you also have to acknowledge that there is something you can do about it. The second part of that can be so, so hard.

                It is so utterly hopeless feeling to think that you are just an innately miserable person and there’s nothing that can be done about it. You just have no “fight” in you to do things that will make you happier. But there are things you can do!! One of those things is getting treatment. There are other things, too. These things aren’t mutually exclusive. And you shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good (if you can’t seek treatment, but can force yourself to smile more often). But they all start with making the choice to allow yourself to be happier.

                1. Sadsack*

                  Ok, I totally agree with that! I think OP has made a first step by reaching out to AAM, I hope that he will take the suggestions here and seek counseling. It would be great if his employer has an EAP.

                2. Not So NewReader*

                  Adding: You also have to know that there is effective help coming. If a person suffers a condition long enough, that person can become convinced that nothing-absolutely nothing- will help their condition.

            1. Chinook*

              “Well, sometimes you may be in a situation where you can’t change your socks yet. And then, you grit your teeth and grin because it’s preferable to, like, growling at people or focusing on what makes you miserable. ”

              Sunny-dee, I have to agree with you. As someone who suffers from clinical depression (of the kind where I have been known to huddle in the corner of my closet because it felt safe) and knows she will be on meds all of her life, I still have some responsibility/control over how I deal with the “painful socks permanently stuck to my feet.” Therapy helped me to change my perspective and give me ways to deal with the pain and grit my teeth until I could find softer ground to walk on or learn to walk on my hands (to carry the metaphor forward).

              The reality is that the OP has to figure out a way to fulfill their physical needs (food/shelter) while working within their psychological constraints. Being a stay-at-home parent or spouse may be the ideal to strive for (and the OP may be the equivalent of the stay-at-home mom who can’t wait to get back to work and leave her child at home even though she really does love her child).

            2. nonegiven*

              Screw that. If my socks have to make me miserable, then I’m gonna make sure everyone I come in contact with is miserable, too.

        2. neverjaunty*

          Wow, that is really not at all what the studies in your link say. None of those studies mention depression at all.

        3. nona*

          Your link says nothing about the long-term treatment of clinical depression. It’s about something that’s somewhat helpful in brief, stressful situations.

          I think “choose to be happy” is good advice if it means “choose to do things that will make you happier” or “choose to put effort into recovery.” But I’m not sure if this is what you mean. It seems a bit like you’re saying, “have you tried not being depressed?”

          1. Kelly L.*

            This!! And since people so often mean the latter, the phrase is kind of tainted unless you (general you) clarify that you mean the former. It’s probably best to explain what general-you mean instead of using the cliche.

            1. Rene UK*

              Also, it is completely possible to be ‘happy’ and still be massively depressed. You can choose to look for the good things, do things you know you like, even like doing them…but still be depressed. It isn’t always *about* anything. I really don’t like the checklists that ask about ‘feelings of sadness’–I don’t feel sad when I’m depressed. I’m touchier, and doing anything seems soooooooo hard with so little gain it just doesn’t seem worth it. I think maybe they should ask, ‘if (something you’ve wanted for ages) were available, what’s the max effort you’d take to do it? a) go across town b)go down the block c) leave the house d) get off the sofa

              1. Kelly L.*

                Yup. In my own experience (not everybody else’s–not trying to extrapolate)–that’s pretty much exactly the difference between sad and depressed*. When I’m sad, I know why. When I’m depressed, who knows? Sadness is sharp. Depression is dull. Sadness is blue, depression is gray.

                I can actually feel one of my depressed phases coming on by taking note of my reading material. I don’t read sadder material when depressed–it’s not as simple as that. When depressed, I read material that is less “imaginative” in certain ways that might only make sense to me.

      3. Jennifer*

        I have been forcing myself to be happy as best I can. I would like to point out how hard that is to do when I literally got yelled at multiple times (one time that I was “horrible”) in a day yesterday. I am a Stepford Smiler big time because I have to be, but it doesn’t help so much. And then I get complained about for being fake.

        This job gives me blisters, but if I don’t have these shoes, I can’t get other shoes and the other option includes walking on broken glass (i.e homelessness/unemployment).

        1. RegularAAMPoster-InNewField*

          I feel this. I think more readers than you’d expect are in this boat, self included.

    4. nona*

      “Choosing to be happy” could mean finding a new job, seeking professional help, etc. OP probably needs more than an attitude change.

    5. C Average*

      As someone who was pretty much born happy and defaults to happy, I hate this kind of advice. There’s something so smug and short-sighted about framing your natural tendencies as virtues and suggesting that other people just need to try to be more like you.

      My inborn optimism is no more a choice than my morning-person circadian rhythms and my naturally curly hair.

      I think a good therapist, some life changes, and some experience may shift some people from the half-empty column to the half-full column, but it’s not as easy as deciding to be happier.

      1. Myrin*

        Yes indeed! I’m a naturally positive, happy, joyful person (to a degree where last week my dentist of all people remarked upon my “always good” mood because it made such an impression on her). I also have a younger sister who suffers from partly severe depression and anxiety. It kills me to see her try so hard to “choose to be happy”, to be more like me, and it just doesn’t work at all because her illness is in her way. She would absolutely choose to be happy, but she can’t.

      2. Not Gonna Say for This*

        But isn’t there also something short-sited about framing your natural tenancies as innate and unchangeable? How sad, if your mood your whole life is “inborn” and can never be changed. I don’t think that’s true – its just that you have inborn optimism that you probably don’t want to chance. Lots of research suggests that (after a baseline) the things in people’s lives don’t MAKE them happy. People have to make themselves happy. To the extent that you’re open to believing these sorts of things, here’s an article that lightly touches on them: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/09/scientific-proof-that-you_n_4384433.html

        1. C Average*

          Yeah, I see what you’re getting at, and I’m not saying all “change your mood” advice is completely unfounded. I’m saying I find that kind of advice really grating and frankly a little naive when it comes from people who have never needed to try to change their moods because they happened to be born with a disposition that’s considered desirable. If you’re going to change your mood, to actually change the way your mind is wired, you’re going to need someone to break it down into the how, and that’s where therapy or even the right self-help resources come in.

          For me to say “have an outlook more like mine” is basically the equivalent of saying, “why didn’t you pick better parents?” It’s completely unconstructive. If I’d worked to have this outlook and could share some kind of blueprint for developing it, then my advice might be useful to someone battling a less optimistic outlook.

          I hope that makes sense. I have seen people change their disposition and I do think it’s worth doing. I just wish that kind of advice didn’t originate from such a smug place so much of the time.

          1. Cactus*

            Yep. I realized the other day that my introversion has been remarkably helpful when dealing with my anxiety and trust issues. And that a lot of my coping techniques rely on the foundation of being happiest alone, and not needing many other people. But ultimately that means that I am totally crap at offering advice on these issues to extroverts. (This resulted in me saying to a friend of mine “oh…you actually…WANT other people?” and then having to recalibrate at a ridiculous pace.)

          2. kt*

            Thank you for this. It seems really common that people who are naturally cheery believe that this was a choice they made, and from there’s it’s a short leap to “everybody can make that choice” and “it is a moral failing to not make that choice”. I get that it’s hard to fundamentally understand how people can be very unlike you (I do not grok natural cheerfulness) — but it really frustrates me when people take “I’m not like you and don’t really understand it” to “so why can’t you just … not be that way?”

            I say this as someone who has suffered from depression at varying levels of severity from early childhood and who has been told from early childhood to “choose to be happy” — which, thinking about it as an adult, I think is an effed up thing to say to a depressive six-year-old child. The message I got from that was not “adults want to help you and want you to be ok”, it was “why can’t you just … not be that way?” I internalized the hell out of that message. I was told “you can be happy if you just decide to be happy”, I couldn’t “just decide to be happy”, and I believed for a very long time that that meant happiness was impossible for me.

            People also really tend to conflate being happy with being naturally bubbly and optimistic, and I think that further reinforces the message that happiness is impossible for people who are not naturally that way. I have reached a point in my life where I would actually call myself pretty happy, and I still am not even a little bit bubbly and optimistic. I’m sardonic and snarky and cynical, and I would not change any of those things about myself.

            I’m getting pretty tangential now so I will conclude…

        2. Kelly L.*

          Well, I’ll just talk about me, because I don’t live in your head. But for me, my mood of course changes all the time. I get happy when good things happen, angry or sad when bad things happen, sometimes go into a gray funk, sometimes am euphoric, sometimes am frustrated, all kinds of moods. But I think there’s kind of a “baseline” that doesn’t seem to change. Like, if I’m not feeling any particularly strong emotion, there’s a certain level I sit at. And that’s different from, say, my boyfriend’s baseline (his is lower) or my mom’s (hers is higher). It is a bit like circadian rhythms, as C Average touched on. I’m not a morning person. I’m a non-morning-person who gets up every day at 5:30 and does my best, but I’m still a lot happier and a bit smarter at 10am, or at 5pm.

          1. Not Gonna Say for This*

            I agree! But I think that the science has guessed that something like 60% of that baseline is innate (genetic and related to your early rearing, which you had no control over) and 40% is can be changed or cultivated through effort. I think its somewhat like musical ability – sure, some people are born with what seems like innate talent. Maybe I’ll never be the Chopin of happiness. But dammit, if I can take that 40% that is within my control and learn the first few bars of Chopsticks or something, its better than nothing and far, far better than the miserable alternative.

            1. C Average*

              I am adding “be the Chopin of happiness” to my list of ambitions. Or maybe the Strauss of happiness, waltzing through fields of clover while the unicorns graze in the middle distance.

              I admit I’m really fascinated by happiness research and read all of it I can get my hands on. I’m currently reading Gretchen Rubin’s new book about habits and really enjoying it–I’ve been a fan of her work for years. I like the idea that we can tweak that remaining 40%. And I don’t think it’s selfish to maximize one’s happiness in constructive ways. When you’re happy, it’s easier to be productive and kind and empathetic.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Ewww, you’re a happy morning person? *grumpy night person forks the sign of the evil eye at C Average*

        Kidding, kidding! :D

        Seriously, I totally agree. It’s like when you’re crying and someone tells you to cheer up. And you just want to yell, “WTF I AM CRYING HERE WHY CAN WE NOT ACKNOWLEDGE THAT??” Most people need some help changing those thought patterns and orienting themselves in a more positive (or middle ground) direction.

        1. C Average*

          I am.

          *stands in the corner pretending to feel abashed about my fortuitous genetic makeup . . . fails*

          The down side is that I’m special-needs-level addle-brained after 9 p.m., and I never manage to stay awake until midnight on New Year’s Eve. I am zero fun at parties because I’d almost always rather be sleeping. I’m way on the end of the lark spectrum.

          And I don’t think I scan as happy in the morning, because I wake up in go-go-go mode and tend to want people to get out of the way of my ruthless productivity. I always save my high-visibility writing for early mornings.

        2. nyxalinth*

          I feel you. And yet, most corporate jobs all ahve seemed to agree that making people com in at 8-9am is the way to go. I get up at 5 though realistically I could do 6:30 or else I will never have time to write.

          But I am in agreement with the Grumpy Cat mug I saw the other day: “Good morning? No such thing.”

    6. Not Gonna Say for This*

      I know that people are responding negatively to this advice, but I’d like to toss out that I don’t think its bad. For a long, long time I suffered from diagnosed depression. I wasn’t able to get therapy for a variety of reasons. I was not born with a naturally sunny disposition. I made some (horrible and poorly thought out) attempts at suicide.

      Advice like this (although as an aphorism, it is too simplistic) has literally changed my life. It can’t work that way for everyone. But “Make choices that will make you happy” is so simple, and so ignored by so many people. One choice I make every day is a fake-it-til-you-make-it decision to be happy. It’s hard – it’s hard every day. But it has gotten easier with practice, and eventually faking it enough has actually made me a happier person. I’ve moved my “default” mood away from curmudgeon and toward optimist just a little bit, and its a little increment that matters a ton in my general satisfaction with my life.

      So no, you don’t choose to enjoy abuse. You don’t chose to like socks that give you blisters. But you can (slowly) realize that you have agency in your life, and maybe eventually gather the strength to leave an abuser. Or buy new socks. For this OP I think he needs to realize he has agency and can make choices, even drastic ones, that will increase his happiness. He’s not lost and hopeless and alone and totally unable to change this situation. He can do it! It will be hard. But there are choices that you can make that will make you happy. At least one of them is actually having the desire to be, and choosing to be, and giving yourself permission to be a happier person.

      1. sunny-dee*

        This so much! (And congrats on your continued health.) It’s actually science: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/isnt-what-i-expected/201207/try-some-smile-therapy

        My mom used to say the same thing. It’s not about being in denial, it’s about adjusting your perspective and finding ways (sometimes by forcing yourself) to identify your problems and own the solutions. Even if it’s just smiling. Or changing your financial requirements so you can work less. Or getting therapy. Or whatever.

        While I haven’t had many issues with depression, I have a naturally cynical nature. I force myself to be happy and cheerful and see the sunny side — and it does make me feel better.

      2. Observer*

        Good points. But I think it’s also worth noting that there is a big difference between “choose to be happy” and “choose to do things that make you happy.” The latter is not always easy either, of course, but more more grounded in reality, I think.

        1. Not Gonna Say for This*

          I think “choose to be happy” is part of “choose to do things that make you happy” – though you’re right, its not all of it. But its part of it, I think.

          1. kt*

            To someone who has no idea what things make them happy, those two platitudes really aren’t any different. I had a lot of career-related unhappiness and angst in my twenties (I felt a lot like the OP, actually) and I tried very hard to “choose to do things that made me happy”; none of them made me happier and one of them led to the mental-health low point of my entire life. This made it really easy to believe that there were no things I could choose that would make me happy, and that makes it really easy to just give up.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I like that you pointed out about the little increment. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and I think people forget that. When they say “Be happier,” it’s like they expect you to instantly transform into Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. All you might be able to manage is “Well, it could be worse; I didn’t have a flat tire today.” And that’s fine.

      4. LBK*

        I agree to an extent – I’ve come a long, long way with my depression, and one step of the process was recognizing that I have the agency to make choices that can make me happier. But that step wasn’t as easy as just sitting down and doing it, because it wasn’t the first step – the first step was figuring out why I wasn’t already making those choices, because given the choice, everyone would prefer to be happy, right?

        Well, I had a self-esteem deficit that prevented me from believing that I was worth good things happening to me. I had rejection and loss issues that led me to push good things away preemptively before I could lose them. I had a whole bunch of other issues that made advice like “you can choose to be happy!” feel like a knife in the heart. I couldn’t choose to be happy because at my core, I didn’t believe I deserved to be, and it took me a long time to climb out of that hole so I could do more than sit in the dark at the bottom of it.

        Positive mantras can be helpful at some point in the process but rarely right at the beginning.

      5. Faith*

        I like this advice. I went to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and it helps me even now in how to frame my thinking. I was born a bit melancholy, and have suffered clinical depression in addition to many serious problems in my life. While I take the SSRI Cymbalta, it doesn’t make me happy – it brings me to neutral. With the depression under control, I need to make the additional effort in controlling my outlook in order to be happy.

        I’m not a bubbly sort of gal, but consider myself pleased with life and the day to day overall.

    7. Kerry (Like The County in Ireland)*

      I’ve got a 100 year family history of people who drank themselves to death or died in thinly disguised “accidents” that were really suicide in order to get a Catholic burial. You can’t always choose to be happy if it’s not even your native language or coded in your emotional makeup.

      1. sunny-dee*

        My mother’s father was an abusive alcoholic. His father was also an abusive alcoholic. It’s a thing in that family. My mother is the most positive, loving, well-adjusted person, and it was because she chose to be.

        I am not saying that you can, like, will yourself to a happy-sunny-Pollyanna life. It’s not that simple. But it actually breaks my heart for people to lose hope like that. You are not your parents. (Unless your parents are awesome, in which case — you can be your parents!) You can make choices that are different and are better and you can have a good life. You aren’t trapped.

        Sorry to talk so much.

        1. Kelly L.*

          To me, it’s not “losing hope” to say “I have a family history of depression (or other disorder), and I have it too. I think I’ll go get treatment for it.” Quite the contrary.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Bingo. My family history is dotted with problems. I decided to go and get something different for myself. That was pretty scary because I had no trail blazers in the family. I had to cut my own path. But it also meant freedom to make my own choices.

      2. fposte*

        I think it’s reductive advice, that’s for sure, and it sounds pretty blamey. But choosing to find the help and develop the skills that will make you happy isn’t a bad goal. I think even that’s still sucky as advice, because it’s not very actionable, but past family failure to find ways to improve doesn’t mean unhappiness is a fait accompli. Tons of people manage to figure out that their families suck at dealing with some things and then figure out ways to do it better. It’s not easy, but it’s not across-the-board impossible.

    8. Meg*

      I know you’re trying to help, but statements like this can be incredibly dismissive of real mental health issues and can dissuade people from getting help they need. When you phrase it as a choice, you’re saying that people who are depressed/anxious/sad are either feeling that way on purpose or just not trying hard enough to be happy, and in a majority of cases, that’s just not true.

    9. Observer*

      Up to a point that’s true. But sometimes it’s like any other aspect of health. You cannot “choose” to have diabetes or lupus, for example, although you CAN choose what you do about it.

      It sounds like much the same here. The OP has something going on that sounds like it is NOT a choice. The choice he DOES have is to seek treatment, and probably work very hard at dealing with whatever the issue is.

      1. Hlyssande*

        And by that I mean that it’s been incredibly insulting to me when people say that as if it’s the magical cure-all for the depression I’ve been suffering since childhood. Yes, I am getting treatment and yes, things are somewhat better. But it’s never that simple.

        Maybe it’s because I’ve always heard it from people who have no basis of comparison between a bad mood and actual depression, but that phrase (or similar ones) generally makes me instantly distrustful of the person who said it.

        1. Dot Warner*

          Well put. I think the reason that posts like this garner that type of comment is that over the Internet, it can be hard to tell who has an actual disorder and who just needs to put on their big girl panties and deal with things. (I do not think the OP is one of the latter! However, Allison does get letter-writers like that, and some folks’ whiner-dar may be a little too sensitive.)

        2. Jessa*

          And sometimes one can have treatment and it doesn’t work. Or it’s not functional. The only meds that help my panic disorder make me so wonky I don’t function well. So do I go out and try to work and still have panic issues or do I take a medication that makes it impossible for me to work at all (in my case they basically put me to sleep until my adrenaline and reactions level out.)

          I have friends who have depression who have not yet found a med/med combo that they can actually deal with life on. There’s a huge reason that some people on strong psychotropic meds refuse to take them. Sometimes it’s their disease talking but sometimes it’s their reaction to the fact that they don’t want to walk through life in a fog and their disease is easier to deal with than being a zombie.

          1. Bunny*

            Gods, yes this. Meds are not good for me. I will never, ever discourage people from trying them because I know MULTIPLE people I care deeply about who would not still be alive if it weren’t for their meds. But every type of medication I tried was so, so very bad for me.

            And while there might theoretically be a medication out there that would have minimal side effects and a powerful curative effect, the fact is that trialling your way through multiple medications is a long, stressful, painful process that takes so much energy and will. Start at a low dose for med 1, slowly ramp up dose for several weeks trying to find a level that balances between enough positive effects and not too many negative ones, fail to find an appropriate dose, gradually ramp the dosage back down again because the side effects of going cold turkey are horrific, repeat ad nauseum. It took 18 months for me to try… I think 4 different meds? And during that time I was an unstable wreck of a human being.

            I will always, always tell people with depression and anxiety and so on to seek medical help and therapy. But I will also never judge people who, like me, choose instead to just cope with their illness as best they can by themselves and accept the limitations and necessary changes this puts on their life. Or people who, because the changes they’d need to make are significant and costly (OP, for example, could not walk out the door at work tomorrow – the cost to their family’s wellbeing would be too high. This means any solution will have to be a long-term plan), find themselves currently in the situation of just having to live through the struggle.

      2. Not Gonna Say for This*

        I understand that this isn’t the way you hear it, but I think of it more as “Hey, you have cancer and that sucks. But did you know that you can seek treatment for your type of cancer? There is something you can do about it! It doesn’t have to consume and end your life!”

        When I was at my worst, the idea that there was something I could actually do (seek treatment being one of those things, but also that making smaller and more incremental changes could help a tiny bit) was an incredibly hopeful and life-affirming message at a time I really needed it. Some people really see themselves as stuck, like everything is spiraling out of control and they’re just along for the awful awful ride. I kind of hear that from the OP, and the message that worked for me at least is a big fat “You don’t have to let this take over your life. There is something you can do, and choices you can make.” I would hope that if the OP is reading this, he or she tries to see this message that way, and maybe takes some comfort in it.

        1. Anonsie*

          It doesn’t have to consume and end your life!

          It… It does though, sometimes, even with treatment. I think that’s why this advice stings a little to people who have been through it themselves, because yes you can try things and yes you should and yes eventually those actions will come around to a result.

          But the thing is that is extremely variable and you don’t always see that light at the end while you’re trying to figure out what to do, even or while you’re doing it, until you’re actually coming out the other side already. So when people say you can choose and those choices will fix it and it’s just that simple, it leaves a lot of people standing in the middle of trying really hard to follow that advice and doing everything they can and not seeing results thinking “Why doesn’t this work for me? What if I’m really just broken? What more do I have to do to not be this way?” That’s extremely counter-productive.

          It also fuels the attitude that someone with a problem only has it because they haven’t fixed it and therefore they deserve the problem, which is a huge component of the social issues around any kind of illness. So while your second paragraph there is *exactly* what gets me through rough times and it’s how I try to coach people I know through their own difficulties, I would never ever boil that down into a one line platitude because it removes the important parts o the message in ways that are detrimental to the people who actually need it.

          1. Hlyssande*

            Yes, exactly this!

            It’s like, if I tried this treatment that everyone is saying is great and works for them so well, and it doesn’t work for me – is that my fault? Am I totally broken that this doesn’t work? Should I give up because things will never get better?

            There’s so much despair wrapped up in depression that makes it so hard to move forward, and sayings like ‘choose to be happy’ can make it feel like you’re a complete and utter failure when you do try getting help and it doesn’t work as expected.

        2. Judy*

          I understand that this isn’t the way you hear it, but I think of it more as “Hey, you have cancer and that sucks. But did you know that you can seek treatment for your type of cancer? There is something you can do about it! It doesn’t have to consume and end your life!”

          Ummm… you do know that the 5 year survival rate from cancer for even the best treated cancers is less than 90%. That doesn’t include those that die from anything else.

          And having watched my parents (who are 12 and 8 year survivors) go through having cancer, for about a year, it pretty much did consume their lives. Don’t want to go out to eat due to the germs and the fact you can’t seem to get room temperature water (so that your neuropathy in your mouth isn’t painful with the cold). Pretty much any sign of illness from anyone else, you leave. 6 hours one day every other week sitting in the chemo room for 4-5 months. Not keeping food down for 2-4 days after. Surgery. Recovery. Another round of chemo. Doctor’s appointments. Labwork. Hair Loss. MRIs. CAT Scans. Still having bloodwork and scans done every 6 months with no sign of disease. Still not drinking ice water.

          And they had “easy” cancer treatments.

        3. Observer*

          I understand that this isn’t the way you hear it, but I think of it more as “Hey, you have cancer and that sucks. But did you know that you can seek treatment for your type of cancer? There is something you can do about it! It doesn’t have to consume and end your life!”

          Have you ever actually dealt with cancer up close? Cancer kills A LOT of people. Some cancers have 5 year mortality rates close to 100% – Pancreatic cancer, for instance, has a 6% 5 year survival rate, and a 20% 1 year survival rate. In other words 80% of sufferers will be dead within the year. You think that it doesn’t consume the lives of the other 20%? And, even cancers with relatively good outcomes absolutely DO consume the lives of cancer sufferers. Yes, some people are fairly lucky in that they can deal with a single surgery and recovery with the long term side effects being fairly modest. But for some people it is quite literally the fight of their lives – and those kinds of fights most definitely DO consume you (or you don’t survive.)

          1. Jessa*

            Yes exactly, and even if the surgery/treatment works and you’re part of the 20%, you live day to day with the “what if it comes back?” terrors. Survival is not a total happy picnic either. My grandmother survived breast cancer back in the 1930s. She died in the 1970s. She still lived day to day wondering if she’d get it again or get another type of cancer, and she was rare. Back in the 30s the survival rates were far lower than today.

    10. Linda*

      I know others have commented about how misguided this is, but I have to add something. This advice says that happiness, and therefore unhappiness, is a choice. The thing is, no one would willingly choose to be so terrified and miserable that they could not get out of bed, function in public, leave the house, or so filled with self-hatred that they wanted to die. No one wants to be in so much pain that they lash out physically at themselves or stop caring about anything in their lives.

      It is a dismissive and cruel piece of “advice.” It comes across as “You are making the wrong decision. You are being stupid. Being happy is so easy. That you are having trouble with it means something is wrong with you, or you are just lazy.”

      1. Sospeso*

        This first paragraph is dead on.

        Often the things that people *can* choose to do to help with unhappiness – have a talk with a good friend, care for a child or a pet, work with a group of people on a similar goal (whether through work or volunteering) – all seem more and more overwhelming when they’re depressed. And to just choose to snap out of the depression itself… It’s so much more complicated and ongoing than that for many people .

    11. Jeanne*

      Please stop this. If anyone has a mental condition (depression, anxiety, etc), your advice can be very damaging. It contributes to the stigma in our society against getting help for mental issues. If you are a normally happy person and have a bad day, your advice works. If you have a true problem, people telling you that can make it worse. You feel like something is even more wrong with you for not being able to be happy.

      From someone who experiences severe depression, you are being cruel.

    12. Jessa*

      Um no, your grandmother is absolutely wrong (sorry I’m sure she’s nice.) Physical chemical changes in your brain are not something someone can control, it is in no way a choice to have a panic attack or depression or mania or any other physical manifestation of a chemical imbalance or injury (physical or mental.) And that kind of “just choose not to be [depressed, anxious, manic, panicky, whatever,] is incredibly damaging and stigmatising to people. Telling people a medical issue is a choice is like telling someone “oh just choose for your blood sugar to be fine now,” if they’re diabetic.

  4. Aurora*

    I’ve never commented on here before but I had to for this. My husband is exactly like the poster, he somehow entirely missed the ambition/work gene. However, I treasure him for it-I have a high powered career and once I started making enough money so he could stay at home, we were both thrilled. Some people are just made that way; his strengths are in other areas.

    However, as Allison recommended, it also sounds like OP would benefit from therapy-the shaking he described may be a symptom of anxiety or something else. My husband had pretty severe ADD and social anxiety, which contributed to his dislike of work; getting those under control (in his case with medication, but each person is different) made him a better worker when he had to be, but also made him a generally more happy person.

    1. rando*


      Also, OP should check out Mr Money Mustache, especially the forums. There are many people who don’t like work, so they changed their lifestyle and finances. Now they don’t work!

      And I concur with the therapy recs.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      Good points about possible social anxiety – my BIL was in a similar situation and going on medication (after years of my sister trying to get him to see a dr) has drastically changed how he manages his career – he was perfectly happy being an adjunct professor but now he is making more of an effort to get a permanent gig.

    3. AnonyMiss*

      Completely agree. My husband is in similar shoes – he does enjoy some work, but he’s definitely not the career chaser, and we’d both be happier to have him at home, taking care of the household and any eventual offspring. (Heck, with my career choices, I almost wish *he* could be the one to get pregnant!) So yeah, there’s nothing wrong with not liking work.

      But I do also suggest the therapy route, because if there is anything underlying, like depression, anxiety, or something else that mentally blocks you, you will just generally be happier in your life if that is addressed (whether or not you’re working). Good luck, OP!

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        “or something else that mentally blocks you”

        Yeah, this. Most kids don’t like doing chores. Most kids delay them or try to get out of them or complain. Hell, I remember doing a lot of that, but I did them eventually. I still don’t like doing chores but it’s different now, because it’s all my mess and all my stuff. Honestly, if there was someone telling me to do them more often, I think more would get done!

        The thing that really stood out for me was this one thing the LW said “I also can’t stand having a boss and the fact that another adult can tell me what to do.” I think for you LW, getting a good therapist and getting to the bottom of this would clear up a lot of things (and how far does this go, can your wife tell you to take out the trash?). Frankly, my father had this attitude, he went into business for himself for this reason and was not an especially good businessman, which also lead to many of his other issues with alcoholism, feeling like a failure, and just being a huge arsehole to everyone. He never sought therapy that I know of and he was not someone you would want to be around for any length of time.

        Also, what some other people have said. There’s absolutely no reason your wife has to stay at home if she would rather work/have a career and you don’t. You are just as capable of caring for a child and home as she is, she just may have more practical experience of it right now than you do, but you can learn all of that if you are motivated to. But, if you both want to stay home, then you are both going to have to work together to come up with a way to do this. Some people are perfectly fine with buying a plot of land in the bush and living off the grid/land. Others wouldn’t last a week. Maybe you simply haven’t found your true calling in life and you need to work towards finding that. If your dream is to write a novel, a lot of professional writers wrote while having a full-time job (getting up at 4am to write before going to work or staying up late before going to bed) until they were established enough to quit their jobs and write full-time. Could you do something like that? Would working 2 hours every day towards your dream/eventual not having a traditional boss freedom help you cope with the job you have to have? More things to discuss in therapy.

    4. NacSacJack*

      +1 to Aurora and AAM – I think the advice of asking if your wife can work while you be a SAHD is good. OP, can you do that? Do you want to do that? Does your wife want a career. Also the suggestion to change your life and alter it so you don’t have to work is a good one. It will significantly change your lifestyle, but if you are not happy, why keep doing it over and over. I also like the idea of you and your wife both working part-time. If you working full time can support your life, can the two of you working part-time support it?

    5. Jessa*

      And the shaking could have an absolutely non-psych reason too. There could be something medical (and depression is a part of a lot of problems like Parkinson’s for instance.) I would if nothing else schedule a physical work up with a GP or NP. Just because this has been going on for a long time doesn’t mean that there’s not also a physical component to it. Even things as simple as blood sugar issues can manifest symptoms like this. So in addition to possibly checking with a mental health professional, I’d make sure to check with a physical help professional too.

  5. OHCFO*

    I feel sad for OP because I am one of those weirdos that does find joy in their work. Not every part of it, but some parts. And I have endeavored over the years to make choices and pursue opportunities where I get to do more of the stuff that brings me joy and less of the stuff that doesn’t. To not find any joy at all in something that consumes so much of one’s life really is sad.

    That’s why the vote for therapy makes a lot of sense. Maybe not the “tell me about your mother” type, but something more like Cognitive Behavior Therapy–where you can practice skills to reshape your perception of what troubles you and be mindful of and shape how you respond to those perceptions. I have used CBT effectively in many parts of my life that caused me anxiety and frustration–most notably how I perceive and respond to pain from a fairly serious injury.

    Good luck, OP. I hope you find peace in this.

  6. Muriel Heslop*

    OP, you sound so unhappy. I think Alison’s advice is really great. It’s encouraging that you don’t want to feel the way you do.

    I have struggled in a job that manifested acute depression, anxiety, and physical symptoms like debilitating migraines, weight loss, and nausea. Agony. I didn’t have a family, but I was able to finally quit and work lower-pressure temp jobs until I felt strong and healthy enough to look for regular work. I found a great therapist, reworked my diet and exercise program, and am lucky enough to now, ten years later, have a job I really enjoy (most of the time.) Good luck to you as work through things.

    1. Ezri*

      This is a great point. OP, in college I was sick constantly. I was working too hard, under huge amounts of stress, and on top of that would get weird physical symptoms – nightly migraines, insomnia, eye / face twitches, stomach pains, rashes, you name a stress reaction and I probably experienced it. I was married, and both of us worked, but my husband dropped out so that I’d be able to finish. I felt like I was responsible for our future, and that’s a lot of pressure.

      Last year I graduated and found a good job. All those weird symptoms vanished basically overnight, I’m happy, I’m sleeping well. I still have depressed periods, but it’s much less life-affecting without stress magnifying it. It sounds like you need a lifestyle change and/or therapy – just talking to someone and finding the root of your stress can help a lot. Being the breadwinner is stressful, but I really do respect you for taking on the responsibility. In these days it’s hard for a parent to stay home with the kids (even if they want to).

      I wish you the best, and hope that you can find the support and help you need.

  7. YandO*

    This is going to sound mean and insensitive, but since we sharing our feelings today….

    Why do people who hate work have jobs and people who would want nothing more than just have a job, do not?

    Why is it fair that people who just “get by” hold on to jobs others would really excel in?

    I find it bizarrely upsetting to know that there are people out there holding on to jobs they hate and are not good at while there are those who would do anything and everything in their power to get that job and be “good” or even “great” at it.

    1. Kelly L.*

      Random luck and distribution, I think. I know that’s not comforting, but I think that’s all there is to it.

    2. Sarah Nicole*

      The OP is holding onto a job because he has a family to support and feel a responsibility to them that he knows he can only fulfill with a job, much as he may hate it. I would venture to believe that there are many people in this situation. Yes, it is also a problem that there are people who want work, but can’t find it. But that’s not the OP’s fault. He needs to have a job, so he has one.

      1. YandO*

        I understand from OP’s perspective why he has his job. He needs it.

        From employer’s perspective, why do they keep someone who is not performing, does not want to perform, and will not perform in the future? How does OP get hired, if he has not performed in the past?

        1. Kelly L.*

          It may be that her performance isn’t as bad as she thinks. Impostor syndrome is a bear. OP’s actual work could be sufficient to the employer’s needs.

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            Or it could be that the LW is one of those slacker coworkers that sometimes get written about — other people in the office know what’s going on, are picking up the slack and hating it.

        2. Sarah Nicole*

          Oh there are employers who accept the minimum amount of work. It’s also possible that other employees are doing the minimum, making it less obvious when the OP is not performing at capacity. I’ve seen this in my short career, and I’m sure I’ll see it again. Also some jobs just really don’t require high performance. It would be helpful to know what the OP’s current field is. Also, perhaps the OP is good at what he does and gets his work done quickly, but has time to just hang out. There could be many reasons why he’s able to get by while doing less work than he feels is right.

    3. Andy*

      I know what you mean. I believe in therapy, I accept that people are wired differently and some of use have depression, but I am frustrated with this person because they are so unhappy when they have things that so many of us desperately want: a spouse, a child, a job, the ability to let one spouse stay home, etc.
      I am trying to find empathy, but I am not. You are so lucky. I hope you find your gratitude and some peace.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I am sorry and I hope you do get everything you want.

        Sometimes when you’re in the misery, like OP is, it’s just really, really hard to be grateful. I’ve posted about being in an accident recently, and as much as I tried to tell myself “it could have been so much worse – I could have suffered brain damage or x, y, or z” none of it changed the fact that I was freaking miserable and often unable to pull myself together enough to feel like a decent human being. That’s hard. That’s the kind of misery I sense the OP is going through.

        1. Ezri*

          It’s really easy to fall into a rut of ‘why complain when it could be so much worse’ when someone is experiencing pain – both as an observer and as the one who is suffering. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, I don’t know.

          I have a very smart friend who caught me doing this a few years back. I was saying something like ‘I shouldn’t even be complaining about this, it could be worse, I could be homeless!’. She just said ‘pain is pain – the fact that it could be worse doesn’t invalidate what you are feeling’. It’s important to keep in touch with reality and not blow your situation out of proportion, but if someone is suffering it is valid to them.

          1. Belinda*

            This conversation is interesting. Perhaps another thing OP can do apart from also therapy to improve his/her mood is to volunteer. Sometimes seeing someone else’s troubles can make us appreciate what we have.

            1. Kelly L.*

              I kind of feel like that’s the “you can’t complain because other people have it worse” thing in another form, though.

              1. fposte*

                I can see why the way Belinda phrased it can make it feel like that. However, I still think it’s a good idea–volunteering has an excellent track record for improving the lives and outlook of those who do it, not so much because “Hurrah! People are starving elsewhere!” but because being useful to people is hugely bolstering.

                1. Adam*

                  Agreed. For a lot of people being lazy, all the time, doesn’t feel all that good even though it is easy and often tied to something we generally see as being enjoyable like watching TV.

                  But actually completing a task, even a small one, can make you feel really good if you know it mattered in even the smallest of ways which volunteering is great for.

              2. Observer*

                Sometimes it is, but sometimes it’s just a dose of perspective. Just for example, one of the OP’s issues is that he hates the fact that someone else can tell him what to do. So, perhaps volunteering in a situation where the beneficiaries are told what to do all the time could help him feel like being told what to do is not about work, but about being a human being in a complex society, since there are very few people who can always avoid being told what to do.

                This kind of thing doesn’t work for everyone or for every situation, but I’ve seen is help for the whiny-ish type of pity party and “woe is me.”

            2. Miranda*

              I had work related anxiety not dissimilar to the OP’s, and one of the things which helped me get past it was starting to work for a chairty which provides services to people with profound disabilities. Seeing first hand, day after day, that it can be worse, seeing people who were “worse off” be happy and positive and hopeful, and seeing how my work was helping things be a little better, was enormously healthy for me.

              Which is not to say it would help everyone, but there is something in what Belinda says.

          2. BRR*

            I’m very big on the “just because people have it worse doesn’t invalidate your feelings.” Most of the time someone has it worse.

          3. Adam*

            Exactly. Feelings are feelings and struggles are still struggles regardless of your situation. You can always find someone who has it worse than you, but that doesn’t mean your own challenges are automatically invalid. Perspective is important but so is acknowledging your own feelings. It’s much easier to reconcile and overcome your challenges if you accept and address your feelings first. Pretending they don’t exist usually just delays dealing with them.

          4. Elizabeth West*

            Thank you for sharing what your friend said. People say that to me when I’m moaning about something, and I want to tell them, “I know there will always be people who are worse off than me, and that sucks for them. I’m truly sorry for them. But right now, at this moment, I’m talking about ME!”

            I can’t say that because then I’m selfish.

          5. GOG11*

            I frequently tell people that just because it hurts more to get shot than it does to get punched doesn’t mean your black eye doesn’t hurt like a mother. Comparing your pain to someone else’s might give you perspective and help you keep everything in focus, but it does little to actually change the pain you feel. It can minimize it in comparison to something else, but it can’t just make it disappear.

          6. Pennalynn Lott*

            I think this is one of those things where it’s OK to say it to yourself, “Whew, this situation could be a thousand times worse,” but it’s not OK for someone else to say it to you because there’s no way for them to say it in a way that doesn’t sound like, “Stop whining, there are children starving throughout the world. How could your ‘suffering’ possibly compare to theirs?”

        2. Not Gonna Say for This*

          My high school guidance counselor once told me that “Just because people are starving elsewhere in the world doesn’t mean your toothache doesn’t hurt. Your toothache is still real.” Your own pain and feelings are valid, even if they’re not as “bad” as someone else’s. There’s a balance between perspective and allowing yourself to feel your own pain and work through it. I probably think about that guidance counselor at least once a week, she was an amazing woman.

          1. Not Gonna Say for This*

            On the opposite end of this, I also used to have a quote posted to my desk that said “No matter how low you’re feeling, there’s always someone else looking up wishing they could be you.” It can be hard to balance the two sentiments, but somewhere in the middle there can be peace.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I think a dash of this is a good tool/device to get one’s thinking on another path. But it’s sort of like hot cayenne pepper or garlic. A dash of it is enough. If you are using the whole bottle in one serving that is way too much.

              The cut off point, to me, is when comparisons bring you down lower. If an overweight person says “but there are people starving in this world” and gets even further depressed about their problems, this is not a constructive tool for this person to be using to motivate his/herself. Tools should help us, not bring us down lower.

              1. kt*

                This exactly. I struggle a lot with the spiral of “others have it so much worse” –> “I am such a spoiled ingrate” –> “I don’t even deserve what I do have because I’m awful and I certainly don’t deserve anything better”. This is, to put it mildly, not constructive.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  Yeah. We have to basically talk to ourselves nicely. NO being- human or animal- does well with negative talk. It’s worked out for me that once in a while is plenty. I start crying when I think about others go through. That is not the point of the exercise.

          2. Simonthegrey*

            A couple of years back, I lost a beloved pet who was practically my child. I was devastated since it was so sudden. At around the same time, a friend of mine lost her adult son to a seizure in his sleep. I had spent the time before then telling her about how sad I was to lose my pet, and after that, I felt so bad since a pet cannot compare to a child no matter how much you love them. My friend is very wise, though, and she told me, “there’s no winning at grief. My grief isn’t more just because it’s mine, and you don’t lose the right to grieve just because I am grieving something different.” I see that being similar here – just because my problem isn’t on the same magnitude as someone else’s doesn’t mean I don’t feel it acutely.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              What a terrific friend. Instead of it being a contest, it really was an opportunity for you to support each other during a really bad time.

              And I’m sorry for both your losses.

        3. Jeanne*

          I talk about this with my therapist. The fact that things could have been or others have it worse is not relevant. Your feelings are real. This is your current reality. Always remember to be kind to yourself. You can of course have sympathy for others. But you should not discount your feelings because others feel bad too.

        4. Jennifer*

          I make a damn “grateful list” every day and if I had a shitty day, it really, really doesn’t make me feel happy and genuinely grateful.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            It won’t. It’s a crock pot thing not a microwave thing. It takes a while of doing this and the relief is not immediately apparent. Hang tough.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Then you’re not really accepting that people are wired differently. You’re also making the mistake of assuming that because not having X (a job, a spouse, etc.) makes you unhappy, if you had X, then you’d be happy – when actually, by getting X you might just be trading one kind of unhappiness for another.

      3. Sadsack*

        I really do not like this. The sense of, “quit complaining, OP, at least you have X,” indicates that you do not at all understand depression, even though you understand that people “have it.”

    4. Chriama*

      I don’t think it is fair — but *life* isn’t fair. The best we can hope for is that it’s unfair in our favour.

    5. Lily in NYC*

      So, I just wrote below that I am a lazy person who hates to work. But I do a damn good job because it’s the right thing to do. So in your view, I deserve to get fired because I don’t love getting up and going to work every day?

      1. Kelly L.*

        This too. Some people are out there doing their jobs just fine while secretly hating them, and I don’t think they should be canned for the private contents of their souls.

      2. QAT Contractor*

        YandO’s point wasn’t about people that don’t want to go to work. It was about people that don’t want to go to work _and_ don’t perform at work.

        You indicate you do your job well even though you don’t like it. Why would you deserve to be fired for doing your job? If you were just barely performing, example one task that takes a day you take 3 or more to finish, then there would be reason for being fired.

        1. QAT Contractor*

          Annnd I read something wrong as I was posting. The first point is exactly what you are addressing, I guess I only caught the second point.

          Sorry for the confusion.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yup. Somebody hating their job in Utah won’t open a job up in Maine that would require the same skills, etc.

    6. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I mean, that’s just random, I think.

      But more to the point: Having the job isn’t the end goal, right? Having the job enables other stuff you want (be it material or psychological – you have a job so you can buy the food you need to survive, but also to feed your need for affirmation, achievement, social interaction, intellectual engagement, etc.). And even people who hate their jobs or are bad at them have needs that jobs fill. Your desire for their job (in order to meet your needs, whatever they area) doesn’t trump their desire to meet their needs via the job, no matter how much they hate it.

    7. matcha123*

      No, I understand where you are coming from.
      It’s terribly frustrating when capable people, who want nothing other than to make an honest living with the skills they acquired in university, are somehow denied employment for trivial reasons. But people who coast by are allowed to continue coasting. Many of those people also have family that depend on them.

    8. Lizzy*

      I have definitely run in to people hate their jobs or begrudge going to work, but were delusional about their skill set, overestimated their productivity and believed they contributed more than they really did. They often think they are above their job and complain about management and culture, when often they are the source of the toxic environment, or at the very least they contribute to it. And it is really frustrating to see good people out of work and would make great employees if given the chance, while these energy-sucking dementors fill the halls of Corporate America.

      But I don’t think the OP is one of these people. At the very least, he recognizes his issue. I do think there is a difference between people who whine and complain and make work a living hell for their coworkers (while good people can’t find jobs), and people like the OP who have dealt with a life-long struggle and really wish they could find the root of their issues.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      I think this is one of those life questions that has no answer. There are people out there that hate their cars and then there are people who have never owned a car and would love ANY car.
      Not quite the same thing as the job situation but the common thread is that there seems to be a lot of things that don’t make sense.
      How come that child abuser is able to keep having kids and that delightful couple down the street can’t, even after spending tens of thousands of dollars trying?

      I do get what you mean though, there have been times where I was unemployed and said, “If you don’t want your job, I will take it.” Truth be told, I probably could not do their job.This is what happens with these individual stories, there is always another layer of consideration. And in some cases, such as the child abuser example, we really don’t know why this unfairness happens.

      One thing I will say, in difficult situations such as OP’s, we are supposed to turn introspective.
      We are supposed to look closer at who we are, where we come from and where we want to be in life. OP has two conflicting goals- a wife and child (family) and a strong desire to be free of that ball and chain that says “job” on it. I think a lot of us have faced conflicting goals and desires at some point in our lives.

  8. AnotherAlison*

    All I can think of while I’m at work are the other things I could be doing with my time, people I could be helping, family members I could be visiting, books I could be writing/reading, music I could be listening to; all of which have to take a back door to work. I also can’t stand having a boss and the fact that another adult can tell me what to do.

    On the surface, it seems like any of these things could be turned into money-making opportunities. These are all “work” for someone. I wonder if the OP is defining “work” too narrowly.

    As for having a boss, that falls into the same line of thinking. . .many, many people are “working” without having a boss. My husband hasn’t had a “boss” in 12 years, and yet he brings home plenty of money every week. (It isn’t great having clients or customers tell you what do do either, but there’s at least an element of choice in the arrangement that you don’t have with a j-o-b.)

      1. Meg Murry*

        Or he might have trouble motivating himself at all, or be stressed out about the financial aspects of his family all being on him, with no guaranteed paycheck.

        I think its worth considering if the wife gets a job that he could look into working for himself – but I wouldn’t put “start my own business as my family’s sole income” on the list of good ideas, because if his depression/anxiety comes back (that’s what I think this is as an armchair diagnosis, but OP should see a doctor for a real diagnosis) it could be very hard to keep up his own business.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Ideally he would get any depression issues under control first, but I wouldn’t slash an entire list of career options based on the fear that it might come back. It should also be a baby-step process. . .a nice arrangement would be for him to pick up side work on top of his job (heck, depending on his job, maybe he can do it on the clock if a good portion of his day is spent goofing off on the internet), and his wife could also start picking up some side work-from-home work. We don’t have the details of his number of kids or ages, or his income, but if they are supporting each other, both could likely make something work.

          OTOH, this story reminds me a little of a cousin I had. He went from job to job to job to job. My armchair diagnosis was that it was a low self-esteem thing (from never-addressed childhood abuse & other issues) that led to his many problems*. I don’t know if he *liked* work or not, but he wouldn’t do much of it.

          *I have an awesome “sweep everything under the rug” family.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            I edited that story about my cousin for length and lost the point, which was because of the job thing, some family members tried to help him start a couple businesses. Everyone lost their shirts for the same reasons he couldn’t hold a job.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I know someone like your cousin. She doesn’t want to adult. At all. And manipulates to get out of it. Her siblings are nothing like this. I think it’s deep-seated anxiety, but it is to the point now where no one wants to help because they’re tired of being taken advantage of.

    1. LizB*

      This! My first thought upon reading the post title was, “Well, what DO you like to do?” There are ways to make money from tons of different activities. OP, if you like helping people, you could look into a direct service position at a nonprofit. I also like the suggestion of you staying home with the kids, which could give you time to try writing as a career (at least when they get a bit older). You sound deeply unhappy, and nobody deserves to feel that way – it may be time to think outside the box about what kinds of work you can do.

    2. Beancounter in Texas*


      OP, do you read or write during your breaks at work? I enjoy reading too, but I find that too many duties at home restrict me from enjoying it there, so I have a Kindle that I read at lunch time. It’s not going to relieve all of your stress at once, but it could help.

      Perhaps in addition to regular ol’ therapy, career counseling will be of service. In the Dallas area, Dr. Helen Harkness is a well respected career counselor who takes on people in your exact situation. It will require some effort on your part to help a counselor figure out what you like/tolerate/dislike and how those preferences plug into a career, but you’ve already listed out some important factors in your letter! – Like to help people, work/life balance or generous vacation benefit (want to visit with family), and hate having a boss. As much as you can, pinpoint specifically what you like/tolerate/dislike/hate about the different aspects of working. Segregating components will help you identity what to avoid and what you like. Think about every task you do and how you do it.

      I really empathize, OP. Good luck and keep us updated.

    3. Camellia*

      Been here, done the same thing. This is just an avoidance/coping mechanism, an “anywhere but here” reaction.

      I’m curious, OP, that you say you were like this even as a child, with chores. Did you perhaps have super-critical parents who thought you could do nothing right? So that foregoing your allowance for not doing the chores was a more pleasant alternative than doing them and suffering some form of abuse for not “doing them right”? That is the kind of thing that can echo throughout your life if not dealt with.

      I’m not trying to diagnose or presume, I’m just someone who has dealt with a lifetime of reactions that can display in unexpected ways. Therapy at various stages has been invaluable.

      I will say that, when (hopefully) you decide to try therapy, it might take more than one try to find the right therapist for you. You really have to “click” with your therapist. For example, a therapist who only ‘reflects’, meaning turning back everything with a ‘What do YOU think?” does not work for me. I already know what I think, what I need is new input, so time to try another one. So if you have one session and you don’t feel comfortable for any reason please try another therapist. If you have insurance then you have a list of providers that you can go through.

      1. Jessa*

        Oh thank you. I am not the only one who hates that “well what do you think,” thing. I suppose it must work for some people because they keep turning out therapists who use it but dammit, I am going to a therapist to find out what THEY think might help me. If I could self help I wouldn’t need them.

  9. nona*

    OP, I don’t feel like this about work, but I absolutely did feel this way about school until the last year or two of college. I hope you can find something that works for you.

    1. C Average*

      Same. The only thing that got me through school was knowing that it would one day end.

      Throughout college, I had a calendar on the wall on which I’d actually numbered down the days of college I had left. On any given day, I would tell my roommates, “I have 678 days of college left!” I was the only person I knew to create a four-year plan, stick to it, and graduate in four years. I was SO determined to get out.

      One of the aspects of the workplace I find the most challenging is meetings, because they remind me so much of classes: “You’re going to sit still and get talked at and try to take in information and pretend you care.” I find sitting in meetings physically difficult. I’m constantly fighting the urge to flee, and sometimes it’s so strong that I contrive an excuse just to step out for a few minutes.

      1. Camellia*

        Just as a side note, my daughter told me one time that she loves these kind of meetings. She waits until everyone gets bored, then starts IMing people with a “what’s up” kind of message. She said she gets a lot of intel that way, maybe stuff that hasn’t been officially released yet, or hasn’t made it outside of that department yet, who’s job hunting, etc.

      2. Jennifer*

        Me too. I literally have to sit still staring like I’m riveted at the speaker, and believe me, there aren’t any notes to take. I did various things to keep my brain alive during classes that I am forbidden from doing at work.

        1. Hlyssande*

          I used to knit during class to keep myself focused on the lectures. No special patterns or anything, just knitting. It helped so much.

        2. Pennalynn Lott*

          Back when I was in the corporate world, I used to surreptitiously work crossword puzzles during [large] meetings or training sessions. It was the only way I could pay attention to what was being said. At my last corporate job (the one that made me so sick I took all 90 days of FMLA), my manager called me lazy and disrespectful for doing the crossword puzzles, even after I explained to her how my brain worked and asked her to “quiz” me on anything said in any meeting or training. She never did quiz me (because she knew I could repeat back chapter and verse whatever had been covered), she just kept ripping into me for not displaying the “correct” behavior.

  10. the_scientist*

    Alison’s advice and the advice of other commenters is excellent. OP, please seek therapy to explore the root of your unhappiness.

    In addition though, I’m going to play the card that I generally hate to play……and that’s the “think of the children!” card. I know, it’s pearl-clutchy. I get the sense from this letter that the OP is dedicated to providing for their child and spouse, which is important. But I would also like OP to think about the kind of message that shirking and visceral hatred of work sends to an impressionable child. Kids are pretty perceptive, and they will figure out that their parent is miserable- and I’m not advocating sending a message of “life is suffering” to a child. But they’ll also pick up on the work ethic of their parents, especially as they get older. If the OP is sending the message to their child that it’s okay to avoid chores and schoolwork, it’s unlikely the child will develop a strong work ethic and that sets them up for problems down the road. So please, OP, think of the example you’d like to set for your child (in terms of mental health, work-life balance, and work ethic) and use that motivation to help yourself.

    1. Meg Murry*

      Along the same “think of the children” line – when my sister and I were young, my father gave up on finding “meaningful” work that used his degree, and took a job at a factory. It was hard, physical labor and he had to work second shift for quite a while. He never pretended for a second that he enjoyed it – but he made it clear that it was a necessity, in order to give us all a happy life (including him, outside of work). It was a very important life lesson for me – sometimes you don’t have to be happy at your job. You just have to not hate it, as long as it allows you the time or money to do the things you do enjoy.

      OP, I think you need to work on the “not hating” aspect of your job – whether that is finding a new one, or getting some therapy to help you develop coping techniques for the job you have. I would also suggest trying to find some time for at least one activity you enjoy a week – whether that be reading a book, sitting down with a journal and writing, taking an exercise class, whatever – put one item a week in your calendar that you enjoy. And when you have a moment of happiness, say it to yourself (or even out loud). “I am happy right now”. It really helps to be able to draw on those (even very small) moments of happiness when you are otherwise so unhappy.

    2. Kerry (Like The County in Ireland)*

      Oh yes. My dad (who also had mental health problems that never fully got treated) disliked work and modeled the example that school was something the very smart (like him) rose above. It left his kids with a very weird legacy.

    3. SarahBot*

      This is *such* a good point – my father (to whom I was very close, and adored) spent most of my life working jobs he hated to support my family (which I am incredibly grateful for). He taught me a lot of good things directly (the importance of a work ethic, the fact that work is a necessary part of life, etc.), but also provided an example of some things that have required years of therapy to unravel (“no matter how terrible a job is, you should keep doing it, because all jobs are terrible”; “if you go to college and get good grades, you will get a sunshine-and-rainbows job and won’t hate your work”, etc.).

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        My grandfather spent his life working a job he hated (actually, both grandparents did, grandma was an “Alice”, without the live-in part) because that’s what you do — you work to support your family/pay off your mortgage/save for retirement and if you don’t like your job, tough. He didn’t understand the concept of a career or even women getting a college education. So that kind of stuff bleeds out past just one generation, too.

    4. DMented Kitty*

      I can only somewhat agree on this. I know that children are a responsibility and that you have to strive be a good role model for them, however, your family also needs to think of YOU. The “think of the kids” bit is not for all severely depressed, or even suicidal people. These people also need your support, and putting this phrase on them might backfire if they look at this as “piling on the guilt”.

      An example is one of the girls from this year’s The Bachelor — she had a husband who was clearly depressed and suicidal and she told her story about how he got to the point of telling her that he wrote a suicide note one day. And she cried and said to him, “Don’t say things like that! What about your kids?!!!” I know she probably meant well, I don’t know, but that was the wrong trigger. I was yelling at her, “THAT WAS A SIGN HE’S ASKING FOR HELP!!! GET HIM HELP!!!” She said he “snapped” and went berserk, and she feared for her life so she ran away that night with her kid — which she should, but she should’ve still thought about calling help for him. She said that morning he committed suicide – I wasn’t surprised. And I may sound cold, but I kind of thought this was partly her fault.

      I also lost my friend because I was blind to her depression. I was very young so I didn’t know better, and I realized too late that she did reach out to me and I did nothing. From then on, I learned. It’s this dangerous ignorance of people who think depression = sadness that I would really wish to stop… :/

  11. CrazyCatLady*

    I agree with Alison’s advice to seek therapy. My partner hates work too, but it doesn’t make him as deeply miserable as you sound. While you may never be someone who loves work, at least therapy may help you be less unhappy about it.

    Also, what DO you like doing? I’m not asking in a snotty way – I’m genuinely wondering if there are some things you enjoy doing that you can somehow make into a career. Or, if you can do MORE of them when you’re not working, maybe it would help mitigate some of your misery.

  12. Lily in NYC*

    I honestly think some people are just inherently lazy – I don’t mean that as an insult because I am including myself as one of these lazy people. The fact that you say you’ve been like this your entire life is the only reason I’m not sure this is about depression (even though therapy couldn’t hurt). I hate working and I always have – even when I had jobs that were more fulfilling. I dread my commute every morning and I have to fight against procrastinating all of my duties. I look forward to the end of the day like a wino looks forward to booze. I’d retire tomorrow if I could (I’m not even close to retirement age). I’ve been able to excel at most of my jobs because the fear of looking bad/losing my job/disappointing someone overrides my lazy tendencies.
    I don’t know the answer – other than that you have to do some serious soul searching. Let’s pretend you are wealthy but that you are forced by Uncle Moneybucks’ will to get a job even though you won’t need the money. What would you want to do everyday? Do you think you’d be happier in a trade job where you work with your hands, like an electrician? I’m sure other commenters will have ideas here.
    Try really hard to change your mindset – I keep reminding myself that my job is what allows me to have a roof over my head and to enjoy my life out of work. This could be something to explore in therapy if you decide to go that route.

    1. Decimus*

      This is a good idea actually. I think most people have some part of their job they can at least take some pleasure in, and focus on that – for me, it was organizing files. My wife looks at it like problem solving. What do you do as a hobby – you might need a different career. If you like, say, building models, you might want to try a more vocational career like plumbing or electrician. In other jobs, like data entry, it’s often hard to feel you get anything done because there’s always more, so a job with distinct projects to complete might give you a sense of completion, that you are achieving something.

      But I agree with the others you might want to try either therapy or medical assistance. You might find something like Welbutrin or Paxil will keep your anxiety/depression down at least enough to avoid outright attacks at work.

      1. TCO*

        When I was on my job search last year and thinking about changing sectors, I looked back over all of my jobs, FT, PT, student, intern, everything, and found that the common theme I enjoyed was “customer service.” I find pleasure in helping other people, in making their lives easier.

        Being able to define that not only gave me some direction in what kinds of jobs to look for, but it also helped me weave a convincing story about my varied job history in not-necessarily-related-fields. I was able to say in cover letters and interviews, “This position you’re hiring for really comes down to providing great customer service to coworkers and stakeholders. I love that, and I’m good at it, and here’s how I’ve demonstrated that in the past.” It worked!

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I like this! The self-awareness AND the advice.

      When I was getting really burnt out I did a similar kind of soul searching on my career. What I realized is that I really like people – helping them be their best. Like, if you’ve ever seen Newsies – I want to be the person whispering in Christian Bale’s ear (actually I want that for other reasons, but I digress).

      I realized that moving into management would let me do that – develop and build up other people so they can succeed. And I really like it. It’s a whole new way of looking at my job and role, but it works for me.

      1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        I’m the weird one who had the crush on David (the guy whispering in Christian Bale’s ear) rather than Jack. I think it’s his fault I have a curly-hair-on-guys thing.

    3. Kai*

      I think this is me, too. I work hard and do well because I don’t want my bosses to hassle me and because I have a deep sense of responsibility in general (and because I want to have enough money to enjoy my life outside of work). That’s the extent of it.

      Many of my colleagues don’t necessarily love their work, but they’re so…invested in it. They really care what happens. I wish I had that mindset, because it would probably make the days pass more easily.

    4. Lore*

      Agreeing with all the recs for therapy. But another angle–it sounds like there’s a vicious cycle thing going on too: you’re doing the bare minimum to not lose your job, which means you’re also not getting many of the possible rewards or satisfactions of working. Even in a job you don’t like, it’s rewarding to be praised by your boss or to help a coworker solve a problem. And many jobs get a lot more interesting and rewarding as you take on more responsibility, but you don’t get to that stage because you’re just barely getting by. Hating every environment you’ve ever worked in may translate to having worked in a lot of similar environments at low-level positions, and there may be better options out there for you.

      One good thing: If that bare minimum is enough to keep you employed or finding new jobs in this economy, jobs that pay well enough to support a family, then I suspect that you have enormous potential to do more, with some help in getting you on that path.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Excellent point. OP has a self-perpetuating cycle going on there. When I don’t work up to expectations, I hate my job. I can’t stand my self image. I can’t stand that picture in my head of doing a sub-par job. This leads to nervousness and other problems.

    5. Pontoon Pirate*

      This is me, too. I want a good salary and good job stability, so I work at it, but I’m not particularly ambitious and it takes a lot of effort to get me going a lot of the time. That’s not to say I don’t perform; I do, and I usually do it pretty well. But I’m unlikely to ever be truly happy going to a job even when there are moments that I love the work I produce. I’m working to be at peace with myself about that when most of society judges me for it.

      I urge the OP to explore therapy because I think it could do a lot to validate that most people don’t love their work and give him tools to investigate and mitigate the more concerning behaviors that he’s recognized in himself.

  13. Amber Rose*

    I sympathize OP, I hate work too. I’ve been spending my whole life just trying to qualify for a job with massive vacation time to minimize working.

    You’re not whiny, but you do need a change of perspective. Seek help. You’re not alone.

  14. GigglyPuff*

    Another suggestion, just based on the cold hands/shaking (as someone else pointed out, yes it could be anxiety), I’d also get a couple work-up, blood work, physical, etc. There are a bunch of things out there that can cause cold/shaking, and depression (which I know OP didn’t mention, but it might be contributing, you never know), such as iron deficiency, vitamin deficiencies, etc. So along with finding a good therapist, and other suggestions people have, I would definitely through in a complete physical.

    Having experience with anemia, and ADHD, plus some other stuff, you just never realize how much impact they can have on your overall well being and mental health.

    1. Mockingjay*

      Yes, please get a physical to rule out medical causes. I have hypothyroidism, which manifested as extreme anxiety, sleeplessness, shakes, and depression. I had no idea what caused me to feel this way (no family history). I finally got a diagnosis from a trusted doctor, and after medical treatment, I was a new person.

      I am so glad you reached out to the AAM community. This site is full of wise, sensible persons offering practical advice, new perspectives, and often most importantly, a kind, listening ear. They have helped me immeasurably. Please keep seeking answers. I wish you and your family all the best.

    2. Jeanne*

      This is what I was thinking. I reached a similar path in my work, although not quite as bad. My productivity was shot. No concentration. I didn’t care any more. A few months later I was in the hospital. Seeing a doc for a physical checkup is a good idea.

  15. MashaKasha*

    Have OP and his wife ever tried to switch roles? Maybe he’ll love being a stay-at-home dad while she provides for the family.

    OP says: “All I can think of while I’m at work are the other things I could be doing with my time, people I could be helping, family members I could be visiting, books I could be writing/reading, music I could be listening to; all of which have to take a back door to work.”

    This is a completely legitimate feeling, and all these needs – to be helping people, visiting family etc – can be fullfilled if OP stays at home with their daughter. This, of course, assuming that OP’s wife can make enough to support the three of them.

    1. OfficePrincess*

      I was thinking the same thing. If they’re getting by on one income now, why not see if they can switch who brings it in? It’s definitely worth the OP discussing, with both his wife and a therapist.

    2. Ash (the other one)*

      Yes, agreed. I think there’s still a stigma against men who stay at home, but it’s definitely changing. Did anyone see the piece a year or so ago about Wallstreet stay at home dads? I’ll try to find the link.

    3. Cat*

      I wondered this as well and I also wondered if part of the intense feelings of unhappiness the OP describes come from feeling that he HAS to do X and Y because that’s his predetermined role. Of course that can lead to incredible resentment and unhappiness – many women who have felt forced into not having a job because of how they were born have felt the same way. Maybe in this case, letting go of the “I’m the man of the family and have to work” concept for a while would help. (If, of course, his wife is on board with that.)

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        Yes, this!

        My BFF goes to work because she just isn’t into hanging with the kids all day, taking care of the house, etc. Her husband loves being the SAHP, plus, she’s way better at making money than he is.

        I’d recommend the LW start seeing a therapist and really thinking about what would make him happy — would it be taking care of the homestead while his wife works? Doing some other kind of work, even if it means they have to struggle a little while he gets established in that position? Sure, any job is still “work” but surely there is some that would be less loathsome to face on the daily.

        A therapist could help the LW explore where happiness lies, as well as helping them find the tools to make the changes necessary to get there.

    4. AndersonDarling*

      I’m hoping the OP and his wife are at least talking about the unhappiness the OP is experiencing. If there isn’t any communication, that may be the place to start. Although I have been in a position when I needed to leave a job that was making me sick and no one could understand that a job could be that bad. I could imagine the OP talking about this and his friends/family not understanding the seriousness of the issue.

    5. VintageLydia USA*

      That may not work if her potential earnings are much lower than his. My husband would love to stay at home but all my work experience (and right now only jobs I could reasonably get) are in retail and reception. He makes 6 figures. We could afford upper 5 figure income if want to keep our house and some semblance of the lifestyle we have now (and really like) but I wouldn’t be able to earn that much for a very long time, if ever. Especially since my husband’s hobbies are pretty expensive so his work that he hates at least funds the fun things, whereas he wouldn’t be able to do the fun things at all if I were the one working.

      1. some1*

        I wrote something similar below — the wife could have minimal work experience, no college degree or even high school for all we know.

        1. Green*

          OP & wife can also both work part-time (as suggested) or they could change their finances and lifestyle to accommodate a lower income. Both partners deserve to be happy.

        2. INTP*

          Or even if she was a high earner at one point, if she’s been out of the workforce for 10 years and doesn’t have any local contacts, she likely can’t just jump back in at a job that pays well enough to support a family. I think this is something that is not made clear to women when they choose to stay at home – you usually can’t just reverse that decision and go back to the same point in your career (salary-wise or responsibility-wise) years later.

    6. Amy*

      Parenthood is hard work. OP would hate laundry, cooking, cleaning and playing with his daughter just as much as his office job because it wouldn’t be about *him* and his hedonistic goal of just doing things he likes.

      The idea that homemaking is not work is demeaning to stay-at-home parents.

      1. Marmoset*

        Ouch, I think this is a bit harsh on the OP, who is clearly in pain and reaching out for help.

        I hear you that homemaking absolutely is work. I don’t believe MashaKasha was suggesting otherwise. It is a different kind of work, though, and it’s not an outrageous suggestion that it might be a better fit for the OP than office-style work, particularly where they mention wanting to spend time with family and not liking the power dynamics at play in a boss-subordinate relationship.

        Mainly though I just want to say I don’t agree at all with your characterization of the OP, and I hope they won’t take your comment to heart.

        1. Amy*

          “All I can think of while I’m at work are the other things I could be doing with my time, people I could be helping, family members I could be visiting, books I could be writing/reading, music I could be listening to; all of which have to take a back door to work. ”

          Helping others is an idea that redeems the OP, but the rest of the things on the list are just about personal pleasure. I bet every coal miner feels exactly the same way. There are lots of jobs that take people away from their hobbies, and that’s just part of life. It’s a matter of attitude.

        2. Anonsie*

          Agreed. Employment-work and parent-work are both laborious but they’re also very very different and some people absolutely are better suited to one or the other just like with any job. You could be a good surgeon and a bad accountant, or a good salesperson and a terrible chef.

    7. Faith*

      On the other hand, being the stay at home parent is a lot of work too. If my SO stayed home, I would expect a clean house, dinner on the table, and a clean kid. Will the OP commit to that? Will he get angry if his wife comes home and is upset that the place is a mess? After all, she would be telling him what to do. It’s not all chocolate bon-bons.

      FWIW, I’m not the best at keeping house so would rather work.

  16. Windchime*

    I also wonder if it’s possible that office work just isn’t your thing, OP. Some people find sitting in an office chair for 8 hours intolerable and frustrating. Do you think you would feel the same way about a job where you were active and moving, like a skilled trade or something? On of my sons is this way; the thought of sitting at a desk is torture for him. His current job is working nights, throwing freight in a grocery store. It’s hard work, but it’s just him and a couple other guys in the store, listening to music and doing a lot of physical activity of lifting heavy boxes of food around.

    1. B*

      This is me! If I didn’t have to be in an office environment I would love it. Unfortunately, it is the only way that I can support myself until I find a non-office job that actually pays well enough. Good for your son for realizing this is how he is ahead of the game.

      1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        Look for skilled trades like welding, electrician, plumber. It doesn’t pay a bunch while you’re learning, but if you can get skilled, you can make bank.

    2. Tigress*

      Yes, this. A friend of min had a really nice office job but he HATED it. He completely switched gear and now he is a gardener. Now he loves his job! He is his own boss, and he gets to mess around with plants all day long (which he loves).

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        That reminds me of the guy in the movie Something New who was a copywriter, hated it, left to become a landscape architect.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Ha, my protagonist in Tunerville is a landscaper with his own business. He likes it. When writing him, I dug into this exact place to understand how he feels about it. I like gardening but had to stop because my yard is too big for me to handle it with my weak and fragile T-rex arms.

        I wish sometimes that I could make a living doing work I actually want to do, but I have resigned myself to the fact that right now, it’s not possible. But I’m lucky enough to have a job now that 1) values my contribution, 2) isn’t an oppressive, toxic mess, and 3) pays enough and gives enough personal time for me to do at least some of those things off hours.

        If the OP found something he really wanted to do, thinking of it in terms of “I do the 9-5 so I can enjoy the 5-9” might be of some help.

    3. Sammy J*

      Second this (in addition to therapy if that’s needed or wanted) — some people work at desk jobs for 8 (0r 14hrs a day) and some people freelance from home, or are potters and work in studios, or are musicians and write musics during the day and play gigs at night, some people are bar tenders, some people work in communes. Maybe you just need to redefine what ‘working’ means and how that fits in to your lifestyle. If working the way your are working is making you that miserable it might be worth reconsidering if you are able to.

    4. LillianMcGee*

      I came here to say this too! I hope beyond whatever health issues may be at play that there could be a different “genre” of work OP can do. Getting in with a skilled trade workers union can get you out of a 9 to 5 desk job and also probably get you to to a comparable level, salary-wise. Even at the apprentice level, they tend to pay well. The biggest hurdle is competition, of course. You (generally) need to take a test and get put on a waiting list until space opens up. But it can be very rewarding if you find you prefer moving around and working with your hands.

    5. madge*

      This was my thought, too (still get therapy, OP). My brother was diagnosed with ADHD and was told by his therapist that careers with visible, tangible results tend to be better fits for those with ADHD. He was miserable in an office but he is a rock star at flooring, due to his perfectionism and need to see physical results.

      OP, for what it’s worth, I would walk away from my job tomorrow if I could (I love bits of my job but the bureaucracy makes me apathetic). The vacation time helps quite a bit with the negative feelings. Perhaps job search in entities that offer better benefits with slightly-lower-than-industry-average pay.

  17. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I echo AAM.  Not only is this not juvenile, but it’s someone the bulk of people can certainly relate to.

    It’s strange to calibrate that careful balance between work and happiness.  I don’t know that I have any advice for you, but I can tell you how I dealt with it.

    After being falsely led to think that hard work, dedication, and doing what the boss says will get you rewards, I was burnt out.  Nothing I’d ever put my heart into got me that raise or promotion or acknowledgement.  Worse, I watched my coworker mouth off publicly to my boss, and she got a promotion and substantial raise the following year.  I’d been slaving at that job for three years with nothing more than $1,000 annual raise, which amounted to $20 more dollars a month after taxes.

    I’d slave for hours doing whatever I could to help whoever I could.  Being there all the time got me nowhere even though no one ever had a problem with my work.  Sure people loved me but they didn’t -value- me.  When that happens, you will get passed over, ignored, etc., and you’ll start feeling the way you, OP, do about work.

    What did I do?  I started growing a spine and drawing boundaries.  I stopped being the office ingenue.  I started being a little meaner and more direct.  I stopped letting people take credit for my work, and I started saying no.  I stopped being loyal to one employer and started making sure I always had other options.  I started working hard at the substantive projects and stopped wasting my time on things the boss didn’t care about.  Most importantly, once I made it clear I didn’t care what people thought of me, I started getting respect.  Then I started respecting myself more.

    I’m not advocating you do -exactly- what I did; I’m advocating you taking control of your work life.  Once you start making unilateral decisions like I did,  you’ll get much more enjoyment and fulfillment because _YOU_ are personally invested instead of being a cog in a machine.

    I don’t know what that would look like for you — househusband, railroad engineer, grocery store manager, rocket scientist or what.  But it does look like you’re letting life happen -to- you instead of making it happen -for- you.

    1. Jeanne*

      I think we can eliminate juvenile just because he is aware of it. Juvenile would be goofing off and saying they owe you a great job and lots of raises.

  18. Tracy Flick*

    “But I have a wife and child who have to eat and have to have a place to live and the only thing worse than work is seeing them go hungry or evicted from our home (my wife doesn’t work because we both want her to stay at home with our daughter).”

    Well clearly they’re okay with one parent being home, so I’m wondering why it has to be her, if she also prefers not to work because she actively doesn’t like work or because he and she like a traditional gender role situation for appearances’ sake or something.

    1. Ash (the other one)*

      This is exactly what I was going to add. I love work. My husband not so much. We’re now expecting and have decided that my husband will be a stay at home dad. Gender roles be damned!

    2. some1*

      That’s what I wondered as well, it seems, they have specifically chosen the wife to stay home.

      Perhaps it’s also tied to the idea that women make less, or maybe the LW’s wife doesn’t have as much education or experience as he does.

    3. College Career Counselor*

      I also got the impression from the note that the OP doesn’t like ANY work, including chores from childhood. The OP mentions foregoing an allowance so as not to have to do work around the house. I’m not sure that staying home when there are other expectations of work/accomplishment (laundry, cleaning, shopping, homework with the child, etc.) is going to help without some therapeutic intervention as well.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        This was my biggest concern with the SAH suggestion. Doing the bare minimum or avoiding the responsibilities all together could have dire consequences when a kid is involved! In a workplace, especially a poorly managed one, it’s easier to blend into the crowd and let others pick up the slack. That’s not going to work with SAH. Either the home and childcare responsibilities don’t get done or they fall to the working parent.

      2. BRR*

        I was going to mention that as well. If the OP stays at home this might start a whole new set of problems.

      3. Anonsie*

        It may be an issue, may not. It depends on why the LW hated the chores so much. I wonder if, because they mention the power dynamics of the workplace, there was something about the way they were assigned or insisted upon or the way they were penalized for not completing them has more to do with it than the actual chore part.

      4. Barney Stinson*

        This. The spouse is going to take a dim view of things if she goes back into the workforce only to find that she has to do all the house chores as well.

    4. INTP*

      The wife’s earning potential might not be high enough to replace his. This is pretty likely if she left the workforce within a few years of joining it or never went to school/learned a trade due to plans to stay home, or if she has been at home for so many years that it would be tough to get another job due to the gap in employment. Of course, it might be worth them talking about her going back to school or making other long-term arrangements to be the breadwinner even in that case. Maybe she hates staying at home as much as he hates working and has been afraid to mention it.

      1. Green*

        Sure, but everyone who is not disabled should be prepared to have to find work if circumstances change.

  19. Anonymous Educator*

    OP: people I could be helping, family members I could be visiting, books I could be writing/reading

    Alison: Are there wildly different lines of work you could explore, ones that wouldn’t have you in an office at all?

    I don’t know if this is really a solution but perhaps you could write a book at work instead of being on social media. Writing is a real job. It’s not easy to make a full-time sustainable one, but maybe you want to head in that direction. Also, have you considered teaching? I don’t think people should go into teaching just because they hate their office jobs, but maybe your hatred of being in an office is indicative of you needing a job that’s less office job–like.

    1. Meg Danger*

      I thought this too! What is OP writes a blog when not engaged in work tasks at work? It would combine the desire to write, with the habit of engaging in social media.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      For some reason I was thinking park ranger would be something to look into. There is so much outside of office work, but once you get into the office, sometimes that is all you can see.

      1. Anonsie*

        Ranger positions are extremely competitive, people work large parts of their careers to get a gig like that.

    3. LisaS*

      Oh jeez, no. Teaching is a hell of a lot more than standing in front of a classroom dispensing wise insights! There is a *lot* of paperwork, both administrative & student-oriented, and it’s frequently got to be done outside of working hours. I doubt that a person who hates work will thrive in an environment where the work bleeds over into evenings and weekends… at least in some jobs, when you walk out the door you are done.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        I’ve been a teacher before. I know it’s more than standing in front of a classroom. But it’s also not sitting in an office. It’s extremely exhausting and taxing and stressful, but it is also extremely engaging and purposeful.

    4. AVP*

      My boyfriend actually has this exact arrangement – he hates his job with a passion, but they allow him to write in his downtime, which is what he loves to do and what he hopes to make into a career one day. And he has a lot of downtime there, which lets him get way more writing done than he could on nights and weekends.

      The only thing is, it’s hard to get an arrangement like this unless you are a great and trusted employee to begin with, or so talented that it doesn’t matter. Much like a work from home set-up, flex hours, etc. But perhaps through therapy, OP can build himself into a more reliable worker and work on it from there. As a person who has suffered bouts of depression in the past, I know it takes more than one approach to get through something like this – often it’s a combination of therapy and figuring out what you can change in your life to get you to a better place.

  20. Vin Packer*

    I love how thoughtful this response is. It applies to the OP, but also to anyone who doesn’t love their job, even if it’s less extreme than what OP describes. Thank you for this!

    For the OP: dude, why is your wife the one staying home if you’re the one who hates work? Now, if you hate work because you’re lazy (pejorative term, but I’m not judging! Not everyone needs to be a go getter, sheesh; see LilyinNYC’s comment), then for a baby all day isn’t for you. But it sounds like you just can’t stand the system of wage-earning work, so doing something personally meaningful like child rearing could be great for you!

    I mean, switching which one of you stays at home is hardly a simple process, but if your wife is on board, you guys can start laying plans to transition that way. I know when I have to do something I hate, it’s a huge morale boost to have an end in sight. “One more year or so” might be a nicer thing to repeat to yourself than “this is the rest of my life.”

    1. AnotherAlison*

      This is way out in left field, but I once interviewed a childcare provider that was a husband and wife team. They ran the licensed daycare out of their home, and could have a lot more kids than with just one adult. Both parents get to stay home and earn an income.

      1. Anonsie*

        These were pretty common when I was growing up but it seems they’re falling more and more out of favor. I hear my friends now talk about home-based daycares with a shudder, like it’s a dirty word.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          My youngest is 10 now. He went to a fantastic home day care from age 1-5 yrs, but the one I had him in for his first 6 months kind of sucked and I was concerned about putting him in the second one, but she was highly recommended and turned out to be as great as was promised. My oldest son was also in two home day cares that I wasn’t thrilled with. That said, I would think there would always be a demand. Even if it’s not your first choice & makes you shudder, not all families can afford the prices of the Goddard school.

  21. soitgoes*

    Like everyone else, I’m not thrilled to toss a diagnosis at at someone who is obviously already feeling trampled by the world, but it sounds like OP has serious depression or an anxiety disorder. I have depressive tendencies as well, and I’ve had to come up with ways to force myself to go to work. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

    1) I recognize that the routine is good for me.
    2) Making daily bs small talk helps me “practice” being around other people.
    3) I’m not above feeling an ego boost whenever I’m given more responsibility or prestige.
    4) I like my broader industry, even if I’m not in love with my particular position in it. I would be happy to work my way up the ranks here. I’m aware that I’m fairly lucky to be here, since my degrees/major and prior work history don’t make me look like an obvious fit.

    I know that these thoughts probably won’t help the OP much, but I hope that he is able to see that other people have to trick themselves into going to work.

    Where does his wife fit into this? Is she aware of the depth of OP’s sadness? Why the insistence on being a SAHM? Her partner is sick and suffering, and it might be time for her to sacrifice some comfort and be the breadwinner for a while.

  22. ElinR*

    I agree with the therapy suggestion.

    One job that might be a better fit than an office job, is to be a security guard. From what I’ve heard, showing up and then doing almost nothing is the norm in a lot of companies.

    1. Retail Lifer*

      Yes. Third shift in a mall or similar place is pretty easy, if not extremely dull. At night, our mall has one person in the dispatch office and one person walking around the interior. The daytime crew has a much different experience than the night crew, and due to differing personalities, most have told me that they wouldn’t want to switch.

  23. Celeste*

    I get it! I really do. “Work” is a huge set of expectations, and nobody ever asks our input into any of them. If you aren’t somebody who likes to compete for rewards in the typical work scenario, it’s a little slice of hell.

    I like the therapy idea, because you sound very unhappy. I wonder if you can think of a time you felt happy and describe what your life was like then. It would be great to set down this heavy load and feel better about things, I’m guessing.

    While I like the idea of switching places with your wife at home, that’s only feasible if she has a marketable skill and wants to use it. Your arrangement so far has been a classic one; you need to find out what would please her as well. Does she know how miserable you are at this job? I think that she should be brought up to speed because it affects her, too. You can’t keep doing this forever without resentment creeping in, if it hasn’t already.

    I would also say that if you are going to trade places, make sure that fulltime childcare is something you would even want to do. It’s not for every parent. It’s just not. At this point I would say don’t rush into it without going for some time in therapy. You really want to bring your A game to your child. It would also be better if you were running to your child, not running away from a job. Childcare is tough some days!

    I am sympathetic to your plight, and I hope you can find a better situation for your life. I think you are right to say this just isn’t working out, and look around for what to do about it. Sometimes therapy helps to work on feelings and how you express them, and no medication is necessary because changing your habits is enough. I think you owe it to yourself to look into it. I would really love to hear your update!!!!!

  24. McDerp*

    I was you. I ended up so miserable that I finally just had to make it a priority to earn at least as much as I was making at Crappy Job through random jobs from home until I could come up with a better solution. That better solution turned out to be… continue working from home. Yes, there’s still work to do, I still have to earn a living somehow, I still have to deal with people. But the freedom it’s given me to come to work when I feel like it, dress the way I want, run errands when I need to, gripe aloud privately about the things I hate, take it with me on the road… has been a godsend. I know you said you’ve tried different fields and companies, but maybe (if you haven’t already) you should explore whether working for yourself, or working with your wife in a family business, would be an option. It’s still work, but you reap 100% of the benefits from it. And knowing you have the freedom to say “F it” anytime you want makes it easier to get up and do what needs to be done.

    1. NE*

      Yeah, this was my solution also. I love the freedom. I love being able to say to clients that I’m going to be out of town next week rather than putting in a vacation request three months in advance. ‘I’m booked this week, but I can fit you in next Thursday?’

      I always knew that I’d rather work for myself than someone else, but I am completely blown away by how much I love this.

  25. Adam*

    I think it’s pretty normal to not like work actually. There is a reason we call it “work” and not “super-happy-fun-time!” And even people who have their “dream jobs” still have days where they wake up and would rather stay in bed then head off to work.

    But I think the OP is definitely on a different level. It’s possible to not like work, or even hate your job with a blinding passion, and still be a pretty happy person otherwise. Having a full life outside of work goes a long way towards people tolerating their otherwise boring jobs.

    I agree with everyone that talking to a therapist about this issue may be the best initial course of action. It’s possible the OP is feeling very unfulfilled with life in general, and a cruddy work life that takes up so many of his waking hours can easily be the biggest scapegoat in his mind.

    I’m curious, if OP didn’t have to work for money what would he do? It sounds like the OP has other things that round out his world like family, reading, and music, but these all sound like facets of his world rather than pursuits, things that really drive him. Pursuits don’t have to be things that make you money, but having something you’re working towards goes a long way towards giving you direction in life. It can be things like family or travel or rebuilding old cars; whatever it is that you’d be willing to get out of bed for and actually look forward to. If the OP didn’t need to work but didn’t have anything otherwise to strive for I imagine he might get bored or still feel genuinely unfulfilled. Something to consider.

  26. Sabrina*

    I could have written something very similar. I’ve hated almost every job I ever had. I get by, by reminding myself of the truly bad ones. My boss doesn’t have a borderline personality disorder. I have my own desk. No one yells at me because they ordered the wrong party supplies. It’s unlikely I will come in contact with blood or urine today. For me, I don’t hate working, I hate knowing that I’m just warming a seat.

  27. Cheesecake*

    I am also jumping on a train of “getting therapy”. It seems you lost a trail of what makes you happy and it is hard to say what is the key here: work itself (even if you say it is not this particular job, it might still be) or some other factor. So yes to therapy.

    While you are evaluating possibility of getting external help, here is one advice. Get a hobby. You want to write a book – go on! Or learn something completely new. I was never really keen on photography, but got a camera and fell in luuuv. You need to keep your mind off work, anticipation of devoting time to hobby helps get you through the boring office day. And who knows, you might turn hobby into work. But all you need is to try.

  28. neverjaunty*

    Hey OP, just want to chime in that ‘go get therapy’ is not anyone saying that you are a deficient person or that there is something terrible about you. It’s not any different than if you had a sharp pain in your back every time you tried to do your work, and people recommended you go see a physician to have your back checked for an injury.

    Maybe all you need is to switch roles with your wife. Maybe you need a different kind of job, or to turn one of your hobbies into work. Maybe you do have anxiety or something else going on. Getting it sorted out with the help of somebody trained to do this is the best thing for you and your family. Good luck.

    1. TCO*

      Yes, therapy doesn’t have to include psychoanalyzing every painful moment in your past. Look for a CBT or health realization therapist, who will focus instead on practical ways to improve your wellbeing and your reaction to challenges. It’s all about creating a toolkit that you can use to build a more clear path forward.

  29. Meg Danger*

    I have had really similar thoughts to OP… thoughts along the lines of “what is wrong with me, everyone else can do this, why can’t I?” The difference is that I really enjoy my jobs, and I like my employers… what I *cannot* do is work full time. The majority of my co-workers work full time, and full time positions are considered the norm I think. But the times in my life that I have worked full time I have felt miserable. I cannot see how anyone can have a strong work-life balance when the bulk of the majority of their days are spent at work. I am single, without children, and live pretty lean, so my commitments outside of work are somewhat minimal… but I always wonder, how does someone spend enough time with their partner or child, or have time and energy to exercise, or fully re-charge on the weekends while working full time? The math doesn’t make any sense to me, a work day is all about wake up and get ready for work, travel to and from work, spend all day at work, and come home and take care of your relationship, house-hold, and nutrition needs before collapsing in exhaustion and doing it all over again.

    Well this is getting long winded, and is straying from responding to the OP, so I will wrap up. Basically, I really understand feeling like there is something wrong with you when other people around you seem to be functioning happily under the same set of expectations. I am inclined to think there is something wrong with those happy people as much as there is with you.

    I personally enjoy therapy, but I don’t feel comfortable recommending it to other people unless they also feel drawn to it.

    1. Jader*

      I am exactly the same way but I do have a Husband (and a dog!) Whenever I work full-time I get very overwhelmed to the point that my depression and anxiety completely take over. I never feel like I get to completely relax and calm down because Saturday we see our friends or family and Sunday we run errands. I need a full day of completely doing nothing to feel decompressed.
      I also enjoy, and periodically return to, therapy. I hope the OP can find the right therapist or doctor to help him.

    2. Tris Prior*

      I feel the same way. I like my job, but I work full time, and a much earlier shift than I’d prefer (which unfortunately cannot be changed). It’s not the work itself that chafes at me, but the 9+ hours a day of ass-in-seat time and not being in control of my comings and goings. I come home, exhausted and starving, deal with food and cleanup, and then am ready to fall asleep. Last night I dozed off on the couch at 9 p.m., having arrived home from work at 7. It’s so easy to feel like life’s passing you by, even though I know intellectually that most people have to work this schedule.

      (I did try working part-time as well as working for myself, and unfortunately could not make the numbers work. :/ It is what it is.)

    3. Sharm*

      I am the same way as you. I’ve only ever work full-time, but I hate it. Every minute I have to spend over 40 hours makes me so annoyed.

      My dream is to work from home, part-time. But I just don’t know how I could ever do it. I feel like I need to be a subject matter expert who did the whole corporate thing and became VP or President before launching my own consulting firm. And I just don’t have that ambition to get there. Plus, I can’t give up the health insurance. So that’s that.

      The bigger problem is that I just have no idea what I want to do or like to do. I don’t like to do anything. I’m like the OP — I just want to spend time with family, read, take on hobbies. I personally would love to be a SAHM; the idea of keeping the house clean, taking care of kids, cooking, etc., all has massive appeal for me. But… my bf and I are nowhere near having kids. And, we’re in basically the most expensive city in the US. There’s not a chance one of us could stay at home. And so the cycle continues.

  30. matcha123*

    I kind of feel for the OP. I don’t want to work, but I do it because I need money. I love money more than anything and I put effort into my work and pleasing my coworkers so they feel justified in having me and paying me.

    Honestly, if I were rich, I’d travel the world and spend my time studying the things that interest me. But, I’ve already come to terms with the fact I’ll work for the rest of my life.

    For the OP, there are not many people that enjoy work. We do it because we need money and money doesn’t grow on trees. And if it did, we’d cut down those trees and have no money. But I digress. So, push through it. Look at what you’re doing and see if there’s any way you can do it better. If you do your job better, hopefully someone will notice and give you more money or more vacation time. You can use that to indulge in the things you enjoy.

    Now, this is my personal bias, but your wife really needs to be working. If you are feeling this strongly about hating work and something happens, she needs to have her skills lined up to take over in the event that you clock out.

  31. Bend & Snap*

    The people I know who have felt like this have done wonderfully being self employed. A few of them went into real estate (some commercial, some residential).

    Having control over their environments and being very invested in outcomes really helped with their active dislike of the working world.

    1. INTP*

      It’s interesting that you point that out, because I am like this and after a few years of working and a lot of research concluded that self employment is the best option for me. I am motivated by increasing my own income and particularly stressed out by not having control over my environment or schedule. I made a career change and chose my entire new field based on the feasibility of self employment.

    2. Adam*

      There is something to be said for the fact that a lot of times working (in offices or otherwise) just plain sucks.

      The self-employment thing is something to consider. It’s not easy being completely reliant upon yourself to produce an income and it’s not for everyone, but I know people who absolutely cannot stand being the employee of someone else. Being their own boss was the most personally fulfilling thing they could do for themselves, and all the negatives that come with being self-employed did not outweigh the benefits of knowing they answered to no one but themselves.

    3. Sharm*

      Self-employment just seems so HARD. I mean, I’m a lot like the OP. For me, I have zero work ambition. I am a really hard worker, because as others have said, I have a huge sense of responsibility, I don’t like missing deadlines, I don’t want my boss to think for a second I’m not 150% engaged, people love working with me — but I just don’t CARE. I’ve never been invested in any place I’ve worked. I’ve really loved coworkers, and there are a couple of tasks I enjoy. But I can’t see how I could build a career out of things that take me 5 minutes.

      Self-employment also carries with it so much risk. If you’re already concerned about money, wouldn’t the prospect of erratic income be even scarier?

      I know lots of people do it, but it just seems so challenging. And I hate to work, so why take on even more headache for the possibility it may work out some day? At least now, I have steady income and health insurance.

  32. Eva G.*

    OP, taking up meditation might help. Meditating helps you to do what you gotta do without agonizing over it (aside from a long list of other benefits). I have tasks I can’t stand doing, and if I haven’t meditated in a while I can barely force myself to do them properly and on time, whereas if I am meditating regularly, it goes much easier.

    1. Ann without an e*

      I have found yoga to be amazingly helpful. It has helped strengthen my internal stabilization and fine motor muscles, stretch my coarse motor function muscles, control my breathing when its difficult and I have found it to be incredibly mentally clearing and find that the balance maintains its self for days. I stream my yoga over the internet so I don’t even have to show up for class. When I feel my self getting angry or remunerating over a particularly difficult situation, I stop and do a few poses in the conference room when no one is in there or chair pose/ mountain pose in a bathroom stall.

  33. Anon for this*

    This is a long shot, but if LW is religious it might be helpful–I actually almost became a nun, and when I did my convent visits, some of my most prayerful/positive experiences were doing chores–even though on my own I hated doing my chores and, in all honesty, rarely gave anything a good cleaning. Doing it in that nun/Benedictine mindset of work-as-prayer was meditative and imbued it with meaning that was normally lacking in my work experience.

    Anyway, I realized that you don’t have to be a nun to offer work as prayer, so sometimes that helps me when I’m struggling/super bored with work. Even if I’m at an office, I try to do it with the mindset of a medieval monk baking bread or something. Mindfulness/being present might work of you’re interested in that (or Buddhism).

    If you’re not religious, ignore me. And even if you are, I agree that therapy is a good idea–this is just a supplemental strategy.

    1. OHCFO*

      This is a really interesting idea. It’s funny, I have a strong “faith identity” IRL, but rarely remember to connect the dots between work (and work advice) and my faith.

    2. Kay*

      So I am not in the slightest bit religious, but your comment really struck me and made me think of a really wonderful essay I read about work and vocation. It’s by Dorothy Sayers, who was a mystery novelist of the 20s and 30s and then turned her writing talents to religious writing. Here’s the link as a PDF: http://www.faith-at-work.net/Docs/WhyWork.pdf

      Here’s my favorite part “The Church’s approach to an
      intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and
      disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the Church
      should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon
      him is that he should make good tables.

      Church by all means, and decent forms of amusement, certainly – but what use is all
      that if in the very center of his life and occupation he is insulting God with bad
      carpentry? No crooked table legs or ill-fitting drawers ever, I dare swear, came out of
      the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth. Nor, if they did, could anyone believe that they
      were made by the same hand that made Heaven and earth. No piety in the worker
      will compensate for work that is not true to itself; for any work that is untrue to its
      own technique is a living lie.”

      I’ve been lucky always to love the simple act of working, because I love being useful, and practical, and getting things done. Even when I’ve been in jobs I’ve hated I’ve always loved to work. Coming across that essay at a formative time in my life really helped me understand why that is, for me at least.

      1. Avocado*

        Despite not being religious either, there’s something in the idea that we have a sacred duty to learn a craft and master it well that resonates with me and motivates me like few other things. At its simplest level, it’s the idea that there’s value in mastering a craft for its own sake, not to please our bosses or check off a box on the Adult checklist, but because making a good table is a beautiful and honorable thing to do in itself.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I’m Catholic too, though non-practicing, but as a child, I read a biography of St. Therese of Lisieux (she was Carmelite, not Benedictine). She did this kind of stuff and called it her “little way,” and practiced mindfulness in that each task was her contribution to the convent and her thanks for being there because it was where she most wanted to be (she became a nun at 15, in the late nineteenth century). She would seek out small but difficult tasks that no one else wanted–according to the biography, stuff like assisting a disabled and irascible sister whom nobody else liked, catching and releasing the spiders in the pantry even though they terrified her–and do them as best she could.

      It wasn’t about feeling superior or accomplished, but about taking those things and putting personal meaning to them, even though they were mundane or unpleasant. I think of it when anyone talks about a dream job–being a nun was Therese’s dream job, but even she had tasks that were no fun! Even if you’re not Catholic, or religious, or even if you’re atheist, you have to admit she was a remarkable person.

      I’m glad you reminded me of it, Anon for this. The strategy is a really good way to get through a boring or laborious day. You don’t even have to do the sweeping for God–just for yourself is fine, or to steward your little corner of the universe, or whatever. :)

    4. OriginalEmma*

      I would actually love to have an AMA/Ask A Manager poster about your experience with almost becoming a nun.

  34. INTP*

    I’d like to make it clear that I am NOT attempting to diagnose the OP. I’m just sharing personal experience which happen to include diagnoses.

    OP, I can relate to this. I have depression and inattentive ADHD. When I entered my mid-20s, anxiety popped up too. I hate “doing things.” The best phrase I’ve seen for it is “task aversion.” Whether it’s taking a shower or writing a thesis or making a work phone call, I react to tasks I need to do with a sense of dread. It’s not that the tasks are that unpleasant. There’s no reason that washing my dishes while watching TV should be that much worse than sitting while watching TV. But I feel it. Some things I avoid out of anxiety (checking email, for fear that something horrible will be in there, or paying bills) and some things I put off because a simple 5 minute task just seems dreadful at the time (washing my hair – all last week it was rolled up in a bunette). And while I have never fully gotten over it, treatment (medications, supplements, and lifestyle factors including sleep, exercise, sunlight, limiting alcohol use) for all of those conditions, particularly depression, makes things much more manageable.

    For career stuff, when I had a more traditional “go be in the office from 9-6, or sometimes later or on Saturday” job, even when I started to get into tasks that I was well-suited to, I honestly felt like something had to change because I could not just maintain this lifestyle for decades and continue to find life worth living. I knew it was a totally normal, even privileged, life, I just couldn’t deal with it. So I thought less “What am I passionate about? What does a career test tell me to do?” and more “What do I dread the most and the least and what career can I find that is friendly to that?” And it helped me find something that I think is much, much better for me, though I’m still at the entry level so I can’t say for sure. But I recommend that viewpoint when you are pondering various careers because I know that the career center style assessments were not helpful for me.

    1. simonthegrey*

      This is me. I am an adjunct. Some days, doing the grading is just. so. hard. I can’t seem to bring myself to do it even if I could be grading while watching TV or listening to music. I even have time built into my day for it, and I cringe. I also have depression and ADHD.

      1. INTP*

        TAing was one of the jobs I hated most, ugh. I found grading particularly overwhelming – I think I made it too complicated for myself out of fear of being unfair with the subjective parts. I had to teach my own section and we were supposed to run the classes in a high school style (monitoring whether the students were working, calling them out for cell phone use, etc) and some days I had to silently repeat to myself “Okay, if you can just stay in this room for 20 more minutes you are fulfilling the terms of the contract. Just stay in the room.”

    2. Heather*

      Whoa, your first paragraph could be me – except that I had no idea there was a name for my “ugh, I don’t WANNA do this right now!” thing.

      I hope the OP sees this and does some research on task aversion, because that sounds like it could be good info to have even if it doesn’t turn out to be the primary problem.

    3. AVP*

      Oh, I have this too, so badly. I once had a super easy freelance job that I quit, even though I desperately needed the money, because I just could not bring myself to do the work and I felt terrible for the people who hired me to do it. I also have depression, which played a big part.

      Luckily I have managed to work through a lot of my issues and get into a job where maybe only 5% of the tasks I have to do are ones that I feel dread for, and over the years I’ve evolved into doing those pretty well. Some things that helped with that are:

      – thinking deeply about why I’m so averse to doing a particular task. I’ve realized that I absolutely hate sending emails or having conversations where I’m worried the reaction or response will be bad, or what I’m saying will make people dislike me. Often I’ve found this is not the case at all, or the reaction is bad but better than I was expecting. I have to remind myself of that a lot, and that the suspense doesn’t get any better but just finding out what’s going to happen will ease it.

      – weighing out the time it takes to do something vs the amount of time I’m spending dreading it. The dreading part sucks, so if I’m spending 30 minutes feeling shitty versus 5 minutes of actual doing it, the amount of crap is lessened overall if I stop procrastinating and just do the damn thing.

      – I force myself to start the task and do one small part of it, and then see if I want to take a break or if the momentum will carry me through. Sometimes you just have to turn on the shower and sit there with the water running for a bit. Sometimes you have to open the email window and type out the first line, then minimize and come back to it.

      – be good enough at the rest of my stuff that I have some leeway with the parts you hate. If my boss, life partner, etc. trust me enough with 95% of the things I need to do, I earn some benefit of the doubt and flexibility to struggle through the last bit.

      1. INTP*

        These are all great tips. Especially thinking about why you procrastinate things (for me it’s anxiety about 99% of things but I also procrastinate anything that makes me feel cold because I hate it, lol – like washing my hair or anything that requires going outside between October and April).

        Another one to add – if you’re going to procrastinate, procrastinate productively. If I’m realistically not going to get much done on my paper today, I might as well be answering some emails or washing dishes instead of farting around on the internet telling myself I’m going to start any minute. The “I either have to start my paper right now or start cleaning the apartment right now” test also helps me separate out when I just don’t want to get off the internet or off the couch and do something boring versus when I really am not focused enough to write a paper that day.

        1. AVP*

          Oh, that’s a great one too! It also helps you avoid the guilt spiral of not doing something when you know you should be doing it, if you can productively get something else done. I know for me, the guilt spiral makes it even harder to send that email I’ve been putting off because I can’t help thinking, “maybe they forgot about me and sending it now will only remind them that it’s late and I’ve been avoiding them!” Alison’s advice of “do what you say you’ll do when you say you’ll do it” is also helpful for me to keep in mind.

          I will say that this conversation reminded me that I had to call and insurance claim person to give a witness statement, which I’ve been putting off for days, and I just did it and it was NOT BAD AT ALL.

          1. INTP*

            Yes! The guilt spiral with emails has led to some pretty extreme situations for me that would sound absolutely ridiculous if I typed them out. I know I need to establish a set time of day in which I respond to all emails so nothing can spiral out of proportion but I haven’t done that yet.

      2. Marin*

        Thank you AVP for this comment.

        It’s one of the most useful things I’ve ever read online: not just because it’s practical but because I feel less alone now I know I’m not the only one with these problems.

  35. LP*

    When I was depressed I felt like this too, and was doing everything I could to avoid doing any part of my job. I was late every day and was constantly caught on social media. I would take extra long bathroom breaks. It went as far as my boss telling me he thought I was arrogant because I didn’t have to follow the rules.

    Get yourself to a doctor first, then after that maybe try exploring MBTI to see what careers your personality would fit with, or try a career coach to get you into something you like. After all, you did mention writing, and you can in fact make money from that!

  36. I'm Not Me Today*

    I can completely understand where the OP is coming from. It’s not that I hate my job… I don’t. I have a very nice boss, nice co-workers and a fairly good job. Yet, it is an almighty struggle to motivate myself to work and stick to working. Some days I’m trying my very best to concentrate and keep my nose to the grindstone, and to churn out more than the bare minimum, but I find myself constantly getting drawn away, constantly distracting myself.

    Most days I feel like the biggest fraud, and it’s been like this since I was a kid. I got good grades, but knew personally that I was capable of more. It’s the same with work. I tend to get good and often glowing reviews, but I also know that I’m really good at doing just enough so people think I’m a good employee, but they never know that I actually waste a ton of time, am constantly flitting to my phone or social media or what have you, and have a tendency to drop the ball on occasion, but not in a way that anyone ever notices. It makes me completely miserable most days. I feel like I’m lazy and awful, and I hate it. I try so hard to be better, to motivate myself, to concentrate. I’ll block myself off from social media, I’ll turn off my phone, I’ll turn off my WIFI, I’ll listen to soothing music, I set daily goals of things to get done, I’ve tried setting a schedule (do x work for 2 hrs, get 10 mins of goofing off), but none of it ends up working in the long term. Even in the short term, it takes so much effort to stay motivated and continue to concentrate that it’s exhausting. On the days that I do manage to stick with it all day, I come home just completely mentally exhausted and can only manage to head straight to bed.

    1. Sam*

      I’m a similar person. It’s kind of amazing how little I’ve been able to do while still seeming like an amazing employee.

      It took me to almost 30 to realize that I needed a new field. Something I was passionate about. Once you find that, you start to live up to your own potential.

      1. I'm Not Me Today*

        Except. that I actually do like the type of work I do, and am very passionate about the organization that I work for. It’s really got nothing to do with whether I like something or not. It’s the same way in my personal life. The best example I have (and this may sound rather silly) is TV. I don’t watch anything “serial”, esp if my spouse wants to watch it to. I can’t. I start watching a show and even if I love it, I won’t be able to keep watching it. I get really frustrated any time I feel like there’s something I should do, have to do, or need to do, even if it’s something that I like. I start watching the show, and then halfway through the season I will start to feel like there’s’ pressure to watch it, and I’ll get frustrated and anxious (and it’s not that my spouse is pressuring me at all, the frustration and anxiousness is all in my head and I know it) and I won’t want to watch it any more. It’s the same with making plans. We make plans to hang out with friends and I’m excited and want to do it, but then when the time comes near, I suddenly feel tired and frustrated with the idea of going out.

        1. Chloe Silverado*

          Wow. I have never encountered anyone else who could articulate this feeling that I’ve had my whole life! It’s good to know that I’m not alone in this. Thanks for sharing.

          1. I'm Not Me Today*

            I’m actually really glad to hear it’s not just me. To be honest, I have never actually articulate this to anyone before.

            1. Anonsie*

              I know that one, too, and I know a lot of people who are similar. It’s like, I don’t always feel like doing something, so if a situation arises where I feel like I must (that show I love comes on today at 7pm, my friends want to get dinner tonight, I have to get up and go get my hair cut tomorrow morning) I just get so cranky about it if it’s not what I feel like doing at that moment. It’d be great if I could just make plans with people or appointments the day before so I can actually know what I want to do on those days, but everyone else always needs more time than that. Sigh.

          2. Dynamic Beige*

            Oh God, this is me. I constantly think I should do this or that. I may be really excited by the idea of signing up for this or that. But then when push comes to shove, I don’t. Or if I force myself, I dread it. There have been so many times when I have thought something like “I should go to the movies this week and see [flick I’m interested in]” but then I just can’t do it and I have a thousand reasons not to. Maddening.

        2. OriginalEmma*

          We make plans to hang out with friends and I’m excited and want to do it, but then when the time comes near, I suddenly feel tired and frustrated with the idea of going out.

          This this this!!! I have felt this way too.

          1. I'm a Little Teapot*

            Me too! (Being an introvert and having a fair bit of social anxiety doesn’t help.)

          2. Heather*

            Yes!! And then once I’m there, I have a good time and don’t want to leave. It drives my husband batshit.

        3. kt*

          Actually bookmarking this to re-read because it is so great to see how much this resonates with so many people.

    2. Accountant*

      What you wrote is like looking in a mirror for me. I’ve been thinking about going back to therapy for a while and I think I’m going to print out what you wrote and take it with me.

      The thing is, I wonder how much of it is imposter syndrome and how much of it is “yes, I totally suck and I’m awful and lazy, but secretly everyone else is too.” Like, what if everyone else is wasting time constantly? There will be times when I’ll have this intense burst of focused productive time, but a lot of the day every day just feels like I’m wasting a lot of time. And I don’t know if I’m being too hard on myself or not hard enough.

      1. Sam*

        I went to therapy for this, and it really helped. She basically gave me permission to chase my passion and find something worth getting up for in the morning.

      2. Pontoon Pirate*

        Yes, this is basically me, too. And I have the same questions! What IS the baseline for productivity realistically? Am I completely terrible, or am I maybe just a little bit terrible? Am I only mostly terrible? And then I come to AAM with the high-achievin’ crowd and think, “Yep, mostly terrible.” I crave data on this.

        1. Violet Rose*

          I feel the same way – right down to feeling especially like a slacker compared to the high-achievin’ AAM crowd :) I’m glad I’m far, far from alone on this!

      3. I'm Not Me Today*

        Yes, yes yes yes… exactly! Some days I’m convinced that I’m just being silly, and every one takes down time at work and as long as my boss and coworkers are happy that I’m just fine. But then sometimes I’ll wonder if it’s not fine. Like, I know I should have done x, y, z earlier. I was all set to do it earlier, and then I just didn’t and I let it get to emergency point before I do it. That, and the fact that I do it not just at work but all the time. I’ve never been to a therapist and have often toyed with the idea. But like everything else, I’ll get to that point of thinking I should do it, and then I just won’t.

      4. misspiggy*

        But many people don’t naturally work in a constant, regular way. Downtime plus last-minute focused effort is how I do everything. Turns out I’m that way partly because of a genetic disorder that causes chronic pain and fatigue, but lots of people are like this, and we get plenty of stuff done. No point feeling guilty because our productivity rhythms are not what The Man expects; as long as others are happy with our output, that should be enough. It may not feel like enough, but there’s no point torturing ourselves when everybody else thinks we’re doing just fine.

      5. Jen RO*

        AAM commenters scare me. Really. Every time we have a conversation about social media or personal calls at work, 90% of the comments treat them as basically stealing. I cannot imagine working a job where I had to be focused for 8 hours a day – I would go nuts without breaks (and one more thing that baffles me, the idea that you get a 15 minutes break and that’s it).

        Over the years, I’ve started blaming it on the American concept of exempt status – I never feel like I’m wasting my company’s time if I slack on Facebook, because the work will still be there when I’m done and if I have to stay late, that’s my own fault and it’s my responsibility to manage it. I’d I had to get approval for overtime and if I were getting paid for said overtime, then I would possibly see that half hour of Facebook as a big deal.

        1. I'm Not Me Today*

          It’s really not about feeling like I’m stealing or about needing to work for 8 solid hours with no breaks. Trust me, I see no problem with people needing to take a little mental rest every once in while at work. For me, it’s about the compulsion to procrastinate. It’s about knowing I need to get something done, wanting to actually get something done, and then facing this frustrating compulsion I have to just not do it, to put it off, to do something else, anything else. It’s about trying to fight that compulsion, and feeling like a lazy failure when I can’t.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I find this fascinating, because I don’t need breaks and I admit I’ve sometimes been skeptical at the idea that others need as many as they sometimes claim.

          I do wonder if it’s really just about what you’re used to. If you get used to working with a lot of breaks, they feel necessary. If you get used to working without lots of them, you stop feeling like you need them.

          1. Anonsie*

            I alternate on this based on how much energy I have, personally. If I’m having trouble focusing then stopping frequently to move my attention away and back helps me actually get my tasks done, but then at other times I can just focus on my stuff and plug through it and I never pause and think I need a break.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I absolutely DO need breaks regularly. I simply can’t sustain focus that long without them. There have been writing days where I worked for eight hours solid, and I felt like crap at the end of the day. I’d much rather take a break now and then and clear the clutter from my brain. Then it’s easier to get back to it.

            As far as personal calls at work, @Jen RO, I think what irritates people is when someone spends their time on their cell phone instead of doing what they should be doing. Life happens and sometimes you have to take or make a call while you’re on the clock.

          3. Pontoon Pirate*

            I think too as a culture we’ve begun conflating behaviors with characteristics. You take a lot of breaks=you’re behaving in a lazy way=you’re lazy=you’re a bad person. And nobody wants to be judged as “bad” because their work habits don’t conform to the popular narrative. Or, I may be projecting.

          4. Jen RO*

            Like Elizabeth, I do sometimes work without breaks (and I get lots of things done), but I am drained after a few hours. If I take breaks, I can last for the entire day with a decently-working brain :) It might be something learned rather than innate, but I don’t remember even functioning a different way, even in school. I sometimes do wish I could focus more, but it’s very hard so I usually prefer to just work slower.

            1. Jen RO*

              I also have a short attention span and work in a job where interruptions are the norm, so that might also have something to do with it :)

          5. Amy*

            I think there are just different working styles. If I try to force myself to be consistently productive all day (which on occasion, my job does require), I get incredibly stressed and burn out. It’s not something I can maintain. When I allow myself to be productive in a way that feels natural to me – which for me tends to involve a lot of downtime followed by hours of incredibly productive time – I get a lot done. (Think of it a little like how cats function – the reason a cat sleeps so much is because they have evolved to conserve all of their energy for incredibly energy-taxing feats of hunting.)

            The problem with that working style has never been employers complaining about me not getting enough done, or not getting things done well enough – I get consistently excellent reviews and feedback and have been promoted several times – but rather, the problem is the guilt I feel. It is frustrating because allowing myself to operate more naturally does work really well, but I still tend to feel like a bad person sometimes.

            1. Amy (the other one)*

              No employer expects 100% efficiency 100% of the time. We also don’t expect people to do the bare minimum like the OP wishes to do. I have supervised both types. The hard-working person usually does relax over time and settles into a routine. The person who “hates work” winds up hating it even more if they don’t step up their game. Nobody wants to watch over someone’s shoulder or micromanage to get things done, but people with no work ethic require that kind of treatment.

              The “Emotional Intelligence” concept by Daniel Goleman includes self-management as a core element. That’s basically what we’re talking about here. Most people figure out eventually how to work the appropriate amount and not to have excessive feelings about it. Feeling guilty about not doing enough is self-destructive, and so is feeling put-upon for having to work for a living.


            2. Heather*

              Sing it, sister!

              I think I’ve found more of “my” people on this particular thread than in all the time I’ve been reading AAM.

          6. INTP*

            I definitely need breaks in some form. However, I have found that if I allow myself breaks on a basis of “When I feel mentally tired I will take a break,” I start to take them whenever I hit a difficult problem. Not on purpose, but having to think over something challenging makes me feel like I need a break when really it will be strenuous whenever I do it. That is why I like the pomodoro technique (25 minutes on, 5 minutes of, you use a timer that buzzes to track them). I benefit from regular breaks and don’t wind up completely exhausted after 3 hours of work, but I can’t overdo my breaks or unintentionally take them as a way to procrastinate a difficult task. I use it for work, studying, and housework.

            1. Violet Rose*

              I feel you; I get the impulse to take a break whenever I have to make a decision (especially decisions such as, “Which part of this larger project shall I tackle first?”) I only recently connected this impulse to the reason I leave things until the last minute: you can’t take too many breaks if you’re staring down a deadline! The pomodoro technique and similar help me a *lot*, because I know that even if I can’t take a break *right then* I just have to power through a little bit, and then I can take a few minutes to read webcomics without work-guilt spoiling the experience. Sometimes my breaks overrun a bit, but it’s better than constant procrastination with tiny amounts of work.

              Another thing that helped: doing my Master’s thesis. Suddenly, I couldn’t put off all of the difficult decisions until the end, so I made the bargain that if I did x hours of just pure work – the timer paused if I got a cup of tea, went to the toilet, or even opened a not-thesis-relevant tab – then I could have the rest of the day without work guilt. p until the month before submission, ‘x’ was some number between 1 and 3, so I definitely wasn’t the most diligent student out there, but that strategy broke the holding pattern of “I will do ALL THE WORK tomorrow, to assuage the guilt I feel from doing NO WORK today”, where I got *nothing* done.

          7. Not So NewReader*

            I am intrigued by someone who does not need breaks.
            I guess start with a definition of a break: Bathroom. cup of coffee? Or is it 15 minutes or so of doing something non-work related. I consider both of those things breaks. Although there is a difference between a stretch break and a 15 minute break in the eyes of employers. Well, in the eyes of some employers.

            Because of my back, I absolutely must stand up and straighten up every 1.5 -to 2 hours. I also get totally immersed in what I am doing, that I have to take a step back every so often. My boss walked into day and scared the crap out of me. I had been sitting there for an hour working on X and I was feeling very focused.
            When I am stuck on a problem, the best thing I can do is look up from the problem. Ideally, walk around for a short bit.

            So although I do put in 14 hour days sometimes, the day consists of random breaks- which include drinking water or filling my water bottle, etc.
            I think part of it stems from having jobs that were mentally and physically demanding. Early in my working life, a lot of employers did not even care if you got a break at all. So these things may push me to pause in ways that I don’t realize.

        3. INTP*

          I am hourly and I feel kind of weird about it. I am most productive if I work in a Pomodoro-style with about 25 minutes on/5 minutes off. It feels wrong somehow to intentionally be off task for 5 minutes and put that on my time sheet. However, if I don’t take breaks and wind up taking more time to finish a project than if I had, thus making more money from my company for the same task (my work is task-based, I don’t have specific shifts), that doesn’t feel wrong, which is kind of backwards. So I take my breaks in a way that allows me to be most productive and “count” them as part of my hours, but I do think there’s a mindset of “If you’re hourly you owe your company work for every minute of pay.”

          I do have to be conscious of the time spent off-task, though, which is why the timer helps – it’s easy to say “I need to take a quick mental break” and then half your workday is on those breaks. Or I will fall into a trap where everytime something is difficult instead of thinking through it I will reflexively feel like it’s time for a break.

    3. C Average*

      This is me.

      Once in a while when things are high-stakes, I bust out my A game and I’m in awe of myself.

      But most of the time I’m doing my best to motivate myself to keep bringing my B game.

      I think for me the bottom line is often the uncomfortable realization that in the scheme of things, my work doesn’t really matter. I’m not curing cancer. I’m not building rockets. I’m creating a marginally better experience for consumers of silly and unnecessary products. I tend to work much better when I have a manager who praises me, because then at least I know I’m making one person happy. In recent years I haven’t even gotten praise. I feel like I’m invisibly doing something largely pointless.

      I have three weeks left at my job before I leave to go freelance from home and to focus more on work that matters to me (including being more available to my family). It’ll be really interesting to see where the motivation comes from then. I have so many things I want to write about and want to say, and I’ve been constrained for so long by time and money and energy and creativity and my brand’s image.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        The job you describe would kill me. Honest. I can’t do it. I wish I could. I end up saying all day long, “why am I here?” And the answers to that question are nothing I can type here! I don’t do well when a job feels like a hamster wheel.

        OP, a bad job will definitely drain you beyond anything you ever expected. Are you making yourself take any old job, just so you can say you have a job?

        1. C Average*

          “Are you making yourself take any old job, just so you can say you have a job?”

          This is a really good question. What led you to the job you’re in? Did you expect to like it? Did you dislike it immediately, or did you gradually come to hate it?

          The job I’m in has been soul-killing from day one, and it’s felt especially pronounced because up until now, I’ve lived to work. I’ve had some objectively craptastic jobs I genuinely enjoyed, like working at Starbucks or piling brush for the Forest Service or updating operations memoranda for a state agency. I like the hustle of the workplace, I like the challenge of collaboration, I like the sense of accomplishment that comes with doing something useful.

          The irony, in my case, is that I mostly have taken any old job and I’ve mostly been happy in any old job, aside from the low pay and erratic hours that come with most jobs in the “any old job” category.

          I remember DREAMING of working in a corporate environment where every day would start at the same time, every paycheck would be for the same amount, and no one would call me asking me to pick up shifts for them. I never imagined that the very predictability and monotony would itself become distasteful to me.

          I really shouldn’t be posting in this thread at all! I have three more weeks left at my job, and then I’m moving home to go all freelance all the time. I am SUCH a short-timer right now. If you’d asked me a few months ago whether I dug my job, I’d have said I love my company but am not so keen on my role. Now that it’s official that I’m leaving, I feel the way you feel in a relationship when you know it’s over and you just have to make the breakup official. I’m finding things to hate about my job that never even occurred to me before. I’m glad I’ll be out soon! I suspect I’ll remember the place really fondly once I have a bit of distance and perspective, but I doubt I’ll have any desire to go back.

    4. Tris Prior*

      whoa, you mean I’m not the only one? :)

      (And, I have a STELLAR reputation at this job, and past jobs. Excellent reviews. No one ever notices me slack. I find this mystifying.)

    5. Julie*

      Wow. I really see myself in every word of this, especially knowing I was capable of more and coming home exhausted and going straight to bed. I have my good days and bad days, I schedule every moment of my life including chores, but my default setting is exactly how you described.

      1. I'm Not Me Today*

        How do you keep to your schedules? I try to so hard, but it’s like yo-yo dieting. I’ll be all gung-ho and determined that I”m going to stick with it, I’m going to do it. I’m going to make a schedule and stick to it, and am convinced that I’ll feel so proud of myself ticking off all the little task boxes. But, I never do manage to stick with it.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Not trying to sound like religion, but for many reasons I think that it is an absolute necessity to have a day of rest. This is one day out of the week where we do something close to nothing and it does not matter which day. A lot of alternative med modalities call for a day of rest with fasting. We have to let our systems go down periodically. Our bodies/minds get overloaded in ways that we don’t even realize.
          From what I am seeing that day of rest allows us to stick to our schedules more closely for the balance of the week.

    6. Sharm*

      I’m like this too. I’ll add that I get work done incredibly fast because I HATE things hanging over my head. I finish things the second they come in because I can go read an interesting article (or AAM!) online later. I’m really good at faking passion at my job. I’ve been promoted several times and have built a good reputation for myself. But I too, think I could achieve so much more if I actually GAF. But I don’t.

      I think another thing I’ve realized is that I hate dealing with upper management. But not like most people — I’m scared of them. I get tongue-tied around them. I even get anxious in meetings, because I feel like people will call me out and attack my work in front of others. I think this is the main reason I’m not ambitious; moving up means dealing with (or god forbid, BEING) upper management, and I can’t deal with that.

  37. lowercase holly*

    since you mentioned the woods or the street, maybe try an outdoors job? not an office job? maybe you already tried that? obviously along with the therapy. perhaps therapy can help you identify a non-desk, minimal-interaction with others kind of job.

  38. Green IT*

    Dear OP …funnily enough I was driving down to work this morning thinking about how much I hate work too …especially in roles that I don’t feel productive – and maybe that’s your issue…it’s never easy to get through a job that you’re not passionate about – to that end I’ve actually enrolled in career counselling sessions…not your basic “lets make your resume pretty” type thing but more – “define your passion” sort of way. While not working EVER would be divine…you get that only by winning the lottery and since you have a better chance of being struck by lightening – why don’t you try the career counselling route. If that’s not an option or too expensive ( they can be)…try searching online for “career planning workbooks” that you fill out by yourself and see what comes out of it. Maybe you’ll become the next motivational speaker….who knows!

  39. NJ Anon*

    I have always said I don’t hate work, I hate working. Much for the same reasons. I am not doing what I want to do. But I am not quite as miserable as OP. I am taking steps to start my own business which, I hope, will give me income and allow me to be passionate (or at least enjoy) working.

  40. Interviewer*

    OP has not mentioned the chores he does currently as a married parent of a small child, but I would imagine the wife has already noticed his strong aversion to them, as well as his job. Surely having him as the stay-at-home parent would be problematic.

    OP, I agree that the wife needs to step up and work – if only while you take time out to get the therapy you need to rejoin your life, which is already in progress.

    Good luck to you. I hope you will update us soon.

  41. Nichole*

    Not much advice to offer, but I do want to say I think it’s pretty darn brave to risk the chance of “suck it up” backlash and have this discussion in such a public forum, and I hope that you get help and it gets better. It’s really hard to have something that other people consider normal be a huge source of anxiety and stress (I have pretty nasty phone anxiety-I can function, but it definitely impacts my day to day life that I have to psych myself up just to do things like ordering a pizza). Thank you for sharing, and to all the commenters who maintain this supportive community that allows people to safely discuss issues like this.

    1. Not Gonna Say for This*

      I agree. Reaching out to strangers on the internet is an incredible combination of desperate and brave. I hope we can offer even a tiny bit of help.

  42. Helka*

    Something that stands out to me about your letter, OP, is that you’re treating “work” as this monolithic mass that includes housekeeping/chores as well as what you do to earn your daily bread. Something that I think it might benefit you to explore is where exactly you differentiate between “work” and “not-work.” Is it in the enjoyment you take in whatever you’re doing? Is it the ability to choose what you’re doing at any given moment? Is it that the “you pay me for this, now I don’t like it” phenomenon (which is a very real, very documented aspect of the human psyche) takes particularly strong root in you?

    What I’m really wondering is, when you say “I hate work,” what is it exactly that you’re conceptualizing and rejecting? By comparison, I would say “I hate tomatoes,” and by that I mean I dislike the squishy texture, the acidity, and the flavor. Those are the things I am conceptualizing and rejecting as being tomato. The color, the visual appearance of the tomato plant, those things don’t bother me. So while being, say, a food critic specializing in Mexican and Italian restaurants would be untenable, a career as a tomato farmer would not trouble me, even though “I hate tomatoes” is still a valid and correct statement. Are the things that you’re rejecting as “work” when you say “I hate work” inherent to every single aspect of earning a living that you can conceivably consider? Or are they limited to certain areas that could be avoided if need be?

    1. C Average*

      This is a great comment. OP, I hope you’ll read this and think about what Helka’s asking here.

    2. Letter Writer*

      I haven’t replied to many comments but this makes sense. I thought about what you said and I think the part that I dislike so much is the obligation. If it’s something I have to do, or am told to do (or even asked nicely to do), I don’t want to do it. I think it goes hand in hand with what I wrote about having a boss. I naturally have a disliking for anyone who can tell me what to do or that mine and my family’s welfare depends on pleasing this person.

      So this realization kinda makes it hard. When there is any work to be done, I pretty much am obligated to do it to get paid. I think even turning a hobby into something that creates income would eventually ruin the hobby for me because it would become an obligation.

      Thanks for your comment.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        There’s another way to look at it, which is that you’re choosing to sell your services because you enjoy the money that comes with it — more like consultant than employee. Really, the line between the two doesn’t have to be so big.

        After all, think of it like if you were hiring a household employee — like a nanny or someone to help with yard work. It’s just a trade of money for services, right? It wouldn’t make you the king over those people; it’s just a bartering of something you want for something they want (services for money). Your job is the same set-up.

        I have no idea if that helps, but I feel like looking at it like that can shift the power dynamics a bit.

      2. Helka*

        That is a pretty tough position, yes! But I don’t think it’s an absolutely impossible one, either. A therapist is definitely something I recommend for you — not because I think this way of seeing the world is inherently broken, but because therapists are really great for helping you fix thought patterns that are interfering in your daily life, and in identifying what patterns need to be fixed versus what patterns can be worked around. Feeling obligated to do things is never conducive to doing them for me, either! So I am very sympathetic.

      3. Natalie*

        That mindset that your noticing is definitely something that you could probably modify with CBT or a similar goal oriented therapy.

        My experience through most of my life was really similar to yours, and a few years with a good therapist has made such a world of difference I can barely articulate it. It’s hard for me to describe how I used to be because I keep stopping and thinking, “really? I would have done/thought that? Right, I guess that’s true…”. So I hope it’s something you’ll consider. It really can be better than this.

      4. Anonsie*

        I hear that. It’s amazing how something can flip from being enjoyable to being an obligation and make you hate it.

        I come from a somewhat similar mindset, and what’s allowed me to shift to a better place is by taking measures to remove some of the feeling of being dictated to or obligated by having jobs that allow me to be almost entirely self-directed and then working very hard to do a really good job. This has two effects: One is that it removes some of the feeling of scrutiny that can add a lot of that stress, and the other is that being a valuable worker gives me more control over my life.

        On that first point, I’ve sought out work in a field where I’m essentially a consultant. Even though I couldn’t realistically hand-pick projects the way someone like Alison could, the reassurance that I can drop something like a hot potato if I needed to keeps pressure down even if the stakes are objectively high. Because I’m self directed past that, I never feel like I’m required to do anything (even though I realistically am, of course) because I can decide when and how to handle the things I need to do.

        On the second point, people who do a good job have options. Being someone who is valuable to my company allows me to ask for things that someone who is skating by would not be able to ask for, and always know I can find a new job I need to. Or even if I just *feel* like it. Just knowing I have that option (and the options above) alleviate a lot of that stress for me even if I’m not actually exercising that ability.

      5. Amy (the other one)*

        That will also make therapy difficult but I second (third) the advice to get help. That kind of thing can be career-limiting, not to mention life-limiting.

      6. Not So NewReader*

        Thanks for chiming in, OP.
        The big false lie we were told as kids is that when you get to be an adult no one tells you what to do. Except for:
        … Uncle Sam who says you owe taxes
        …the grocery store that expects money for that cart load of food
        …the car with the flat tire
        … MS that sends messages in our computers that we need to do an update
        …doctors that demand we go for testing
        …you must have all kinds of insurances- health, home, auto, life. Do you have dog? There is insurance for it.

        I could go on, I think you see what I mean. What adults did not tell us as kids is that when we are a part of any group, we have an obligation. So just being a part of society brings on obligations.
        How come helping a friend, who needs help btw, does not feel like an obligation? Not being snarky- honest- I am trying to give you something to mull over. A friend in trouble is actually an obligation by the sheer fact of the relationship ties.
        I used to say “how come I can jump out of bed at 2 am to help a friend in trouble but I cannot get up at 6 am to go to work?” My first thought was because I was choosing to help the friend. It was my choice.
        But somehow that was not the answer. The answer was the reward – the friendship bond, the thank you, the smile that said “wow, this means something to me.” I got the feedback, I felt like I had actually done something actually made a difference in someone’s life, well, okay, I made a difference in their day. It filled a hole in my life, OP.
        What’s the hole in your life and what will it take to fill it?

  43. Rebecca*

    OP, I feel your pain. I loathe my job too, but not to the extent you do. I’ve just come to terms with the fact that I have to work to get money and have a roof over my head. I totally agree with the posters above who suggest getting some professional help with your feelings. You shouldn’t have to deal with shaking, etc. on the job.

    I’m not sure if you’ve shared all of this with your wife, but if not, I urge you to have a frank conversation about your feelings. Perhaps she could take over the working outside the house role for a while. Not sure how employment opportunities are in your area, so the sooner the better on the conversation so she can start looking and lining up interviews.

    Good luck.

  44. Lizzy May*

    OP, I really feel for you and join the chorus of those suggesting therapy. I deal with anxiety and depression and get this way sometimes. It’s awful. If you’re struggling with this every day, you should talk to someone. If your work has an EAP, they could have excellent resources.

  45. J*

    Thanks for your compassionate response, Alison. I’ve recently come to realise that I also hate work – or rather, I hate and resent that in this capitalist system working is the only way I can survive. I’m not lazy, I have an excellent work record, I’m generally a pretty cheery and optimistic person – and I’m pretty sure anyone who has worked with me, managed me, or been a client would be surprised to hear me say it. But sometimes, like the OP, I think of the years and years ahead of me that will be spent working to survive (I’m in my 30s now) and I feel absolutely bleak. It’s not a great mindset to be in, but I also know that any attitude change from me to make me happier about the situation would just icing the proverbial: I’d be mindwashing myself into forgetting what a horrible set up it all is. (Not that I’m ruling out doing exactly that, because if I really do have to spend years and years doing it, I suppose I’d rather not be totally miserable!)

    1. C Average*

      Yeah, sometimes even when work itself isn’t that bad, the sheer foreverness of it can be overwhelming.

    2. BRR*

      I’m with you there. The Sims 3 sums it up perfectly, “Off for the first day of work. Another 40 years of this and they can retire.” I’m starting to feel this way on Sundays. I want another day off.

    3. Julie*

      I really loathe capitalism, or at least it’s what I blame. I survived cancer while I was in college and when dealing with that in therapy I was always told to envision my future regularly because I had one again and who knows how long I might have to enjoy it since recurrence is always a possibility. It was meant to be a “live each day like your last” kind of advice to get me motivated to get back to living. Instead, I see it as a curse because I’m living out what could be a limited number of days doing something at the behest of someone else, for their benefit, and I’m given nominal rewards in return as a sacrifice to my happiness. I have been to therapy so I can justify it to myself, repeat the mantras and use my CBT to guide my thoughts in the “right” way. At the end of the day I have to spend so much time and effort to avoid acknowledging how trapped I feel by the rules of society.

    4. NoTurnover*

      My answer to a very similar feeling was to start saving as much money as possible so I won’t have to do this for 40 years. I just have too many other things I want to do to spend the majority of my life working on things I’m not passionate about. Not tenable for everyone, I know, but if you make a decent income, think about it. Mr. Money Mustache and Early Retirement Extreme are two resources that made me realize it was possible for me.

  46. Lanya*

    The OP states that he’s felt this way since childhood, so personally, I don’t believe there has to be an underlying psychological disorder. I think some people are genuinely free spirits who do better living off of the land in a sod house, away from other people, so that they don’t have to work a conventional job, take care of others, or deal in general with being a normal member of society. Perhaps that is the OP’s true calling in life, if the desire to not work is that strong. Unfortunately the responsibility of wife and child would hinder that freedom.

    1. Natalie*

      I you’re making some incorrect assumptions about psychology here. For one thing, mental health conditions can absolutely manifest in childhood. Family or parental dysfunction also has a significant effect starting before birth. Additionally, it’s not actually important whether or not the letter writer has a Capital D Disorder – a counselor could help them reconcile whatever it is that’s going on, whether that’s depression, poor coping skills, a secret desire to live on a commune, or something else. The letter writer isn’t happy, but I don’t think that’s an immutable condition the letter writer can do nothing about except run off to the woods.

      1. Lanya*

        Neither was I making incorrect assumptions about psychology, nor did I suggest running off into the woods was the only solution. I was using the conditional mood throughout my statement. I’m just trying to offer a different perspective from the dozens of people above me.

      2. Heather*

        Especially because he says that he wants to be more like others, but can’t manage to make it happen. If he had said he likes the way he is and just wishes he didn’t have the responsibility of a family, that would be an entirely different story.

    2. Sharm*

      I appreciate your perspective! I tend to think more like you than the other comments I’ve seen. We are too quick to diagnose. I’ve known plenty of people who fit the description you describe.

  47. Alis*

    I have to disagree with some. Unless the children are in school all day, people like OP aren’t suited to being an at-home parent. Being a good at-home parent requires work.

    It requires putting on a smile and planning activities, constant cleaning, proactive play, etc. Some at-home parents will spend the day online or watching TV while the kid(s) do nothing. That isn’t fair to them. OP describes an unwillingness to put in domestic effort.

    For the record, I was an at-home parent for years. On a tired, unmotivated day, work felt easier than trying to keep bouncing kiddos happy.

  48. AntherHRPro*

    OP – Thank you for writing in. My mother would also fall into the “I hate work” camp. Being someone with a very strong work ethic, I have never understood it before. You gave me a glimpse into what that really means. I hope you can figure out a way to find some happiness. No matter what, clearly something has to change. Anytime you start experiencing a strong physical reaction to emotional situations you need to make a change. Maybe that is seeing a counselor, maybe it is becoming a stay at home dad (which is very honorable), or maybe it is finding some other type of work (truck driver, postal/UPS delivery, dog walker, etc.).

    Please take care of yourself. Continuing to be this unhappy will not benefit your wife and child and it sounds like that is why you are putting up with your current situation.

  49. Tricia C*

    I have a friend who has a similar outlook towards work – not quite as dire, but he wants to spend his time doing what HE wants to do – not what he is told to do. His solution was to find a job that pays a great hourly rate and offers a flexible schedule, so that he can work as little hours as possible to support his lifestyle, and spend the rest of his time doing what he wants to do. It means instead of looking for a job he’d love, he looked for a job that would support his lifestyle. In his case, it was nursing (and for what its worth, he’s a hard worker and great at his job – its just that it isn’t the part of his day he finds fulfilling). This is the opposite of what I – and lots of other people – did, which was to find a job I enjoyed so that I didn’t mind the work.

    Perhaps you could try his approach? Doesn’t have to be nursing – there are actually a good number of jobs that pay well and have flexible hours, if you’re willing to get the training and do the work (which is often not the most pleasant work, which is why they pay well for people to do it). If you hate your current work, it might be worth it to do less desirable work in exchange for working fewer hours in the day…

  50. Letter Writer*

    Thanks Alison and everyone for the kind words. I will definitely take them to heart.

    I have considered therapy for a while but with only me working, I don’t really have the money to pay for it. Perhaps an area church would help me for free, although I’m not a big church guy.

    The switching places with my wife is an idea, perhaps we will discuss that further. I would just feel like I was sending her off into a world I hate and forcing her to do something I’m not strong enough to do. I always thought by her staying home I was protecting her from the workplace and work environments that I hate so much.

    Thanks again everyone. It’s nice to see some comments from people who feel like I do. At least I’m not alone.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      If your wife can handle birthing and raising a child, she can handle working. I promise. I would listen to what she has to say – we may have different ideas of marriage but I’d bristle a bit if my husband decided it was his place to protect me from the world. Spiders, yes. World, no.

      Good luck to you, and thanks for being receptive.

    2. Sigrid*

      But would she hate it? A lot of people don’t. I really think this is something you need to discuss openly with her, because your protective sense may be completely misguided (and, frankly, is robbing her of agency unless she wants that kind of protection).

      Also, please look at whatever insurance plan you have; many, especially now we’re in a post-ACA world, cover therapy costs except for a co-pay. You may or may not able to afford paying for therapy out-of-pocket until you meet your deductible, and you may or may not be able to afford the recurring cost of the co-pay, but it’s worth looking into.

    3. Not Gonna Say for This*

      Thank you for reading and responding.

      “I would just feel like I was sending her off into a world I hate and forcing her to do something I’m not strong enough to do. I always thought by her staying home I was protecting her from the workplace and work environments that I hate so much.”

      On a much smaller scale, my husband and I felt this way about certain chores. He was cleaning the toilets for the longest time, thinking that it made him a martyr to me, because he HATES cleaning the toilet. I was doing the dishes thinking the same kind of thing: “Man, I love my husband enough to do the f’ing dishes.” As it turns out, he doesn’t mind the dishes that much and I couldn’t care less about cleaning the toilet. The day we figured out which chores each of us doesn’t hate, and divided them up that way, was one of the best days of our marriage so far.

      Maybe you’re right and she’ll hate it. But maybe the two of you just have different strengths. Maybe she’s sitting at home thinking “I’m so glad I can spare my husband from the horrible burden that is child-rearing. This is so dang awful, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone!!” and really, you two could be much happier with a different arrangement. Neither of you should be a martyr for the other’s sake!! Have an honest conversation about your strengths as a couple, and see if you can’t come out stronger by leveraging whatever those strengths are and working as a team.

    4. Meg Murry*

      Does your job have an EAP? If so, call it. They can hook you up with some free or low cost sessions with a therapist (ours offers up to 6 sessions free).

    5. Anon Accountant*

      Do you have a local non-profit mental health association near you? A university with a graduate counseling clinic that may be open to the public? They may be able to steer you to low cost or sliding-scale cost mental health services.

      1. Vanishing Girl*

        I second this: we have found our local university clinic (staffed with people working towards their Ph.Ds in clinical psych) has been invaluable. My husband goes to our local clinic and it has really changed our lives for the better.

        I’ll also encourage talking to your wife: she may want to try working. Maybe she likes it? I am the one working in our family, and my husband is like you. He hates work and would dread it. I like getting out of the house and talking to other people. It works very well for us.

        I really hope you come back and update us on things later. So many of us are hoping it gets better for you!

    6. TCO*

      LW, does your company offer an Employee Assistance Program? EAPs can usually provide at least a few sessions of results-focused therapy at no charge. They might also be able to suggest ways to continue therapy in an affordable manner. I am completely sympathetic to the fact that you don’t feel you can afford therapy. I get it–you need to keep a roof over your family’s head. But when you’re this unhappy, you also can’t afford to not seek some therapy, at least for a little while.

      And I echo the other comments here–your wife might feel entirely differently about work than you do. Your laudable effort to protect her (which I know comes out of love) might actually be entirely unnecessary, and might be causing more family misery than it prevents. I say this not to make you feel guilty or imply that you’re doing something wrong, but to open your mind to other possibilities for your family. As a first step, is your wife willing/able to work a very PT job that brings in a bit of extra income to help pay for your therapy?

      1. TCO*

        I want to add that you’re not weak for wanting your work life to be different than it is. This isn’t about “sending your wife off to do something you’re not strong enough to do yourself.” Statements like this are really self-limiting; you’re building a false barrier that just isn’t really there. You’re being too hard on yourself, which is often a symptom of anxiety. There’s strength, not weakness, in being able to say that you’re unhappy and being willing to search for answers. I say this with all compassion (I’ve been there) and all of my best wishes for you.

    7. Celeste*

      Wow, you definitely need to open up about this to your wife. She is a separate person from you, and surely doesn’t feel the same as you do about every issue. In any case, it would be good to find out, so you have that knowledge going forward with changes you might like to make.

      Regarding therapy, it doesn’t have to be crazy expensive. Many people find that just a few sessions can help them going forward. I think you owe it to yourself to at least get some quotes before you dismiss it, and make sure that your insurance doesn’t cover it first. If you aren’t religious, then religious counseling may not even be appropriate; I’m not sure that pastors even provide free services for non-members.

      I hope you can get past your feelings about the badness of workplaces and figure something out before things get any worse. Hang in there!!!

    8. Natalie*

      Oof, I feel like I might be opening a can of worms here, but I would avoid looking to church for therapy. Training in pastoral counseling is extremely hit-or-miss, as regards modern psychological research. That’s no reflection on your religion or the kindness and compassion of your clergy, it’s just not their primary job. They’re spiritual figures, and this doesn’t sound like a spiritual problem. Personally, I’d check out the low cost mental health care options linked above.

      That said, if clergy is what’s most readily available to you, you can find someone certified through the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, a professional organization oriented towards integrating psychotherapy into pastoral counseling.

      1. Jennifer*

        I do agree with that–my mom saw a few Stephen Ministers and they really just had no idea how to deal with her.

      2. Meg Murry*

        And some churches that believe in “traditional” roles for men and women may try to encourage you to stay with your current setup of you working and your wife at home, whether or not that is best for you. So be wary of anywhere that considers this to be 100% necessary, as it may not be the best for you and your wife in the long term.

    9. Meg Danger*

      So hard :(

      I really hate to bring this up, but a lot of times there is a significant gap in the earning potential of men and women… so even if it makes practical and emotional sense for LW to stay home and his wife to work, there are logistical considerations to supporting three people on one income. These considerations are particularly relevant when money is tight enough that affordable mental health services are a concern.

      I really wish you and your family the best of luck navigating a solution moving forward!

    10. Jennifer*

      LW, I want to give you props for sticking with work. Because I’ve known a few folks like you who have literally hated every job they’ve ever had. Except those people ah…tended to behave in a really passive-aggressive manner so that they’d get fired, like they were late all the time or something. I knew one guy who COINCIDENTALLY managed to “slip, fall, and hurt his knee” and go out on workman’s comp on the first week of almost every job I ever knew of him having. Those folks I’ve known were always in and out of jobs and the second they got into a job they were behaving horribly so they’d get canned.

      So, I give you a lot of kudos for NOT falling to that temptation.

      I unfortunately don’t really have a solution for your problem, though, but at least you’re sensible enough to know that being homeless and hungry isn’t a great option. The folks I knew above were always sponging off parents or SO’s, so I guess they could get away with it.

    11. Nethwen*

      I hesitated to comment because this could easily be taken the wrong way, so please understand that I support you getting help and making changes and working towards a happier life.

      When I read your letter, what stuck with me is that you want to be honorable.

      You endure misery day after day after interminable day because you love your wife and daughter. To me, this shows you are a man of honor. Someone without honor would have gone to live in the woods and left his wife to figure things out. You care enough about your family to sit in agony so that they can be in comfort. This is admirable.

      Again, please do get help and be brave enough to experiment until you find something that lessens the pain.

      Also, some churches have as an express part of their purpose of existence the mission to help people who don’t go to church, so do follow-up on your thought.

      1. Heather*

        LW, I hope you see this comment, because it’s so true. You could have just ditched the wife and kid and run off with the circus – but you didn’t. When you’re feeling all down about yourself, try to remind yourself that you haven’t slacked off on keeping the most important & longest-lasting promises you ever made. Screwing around on Facebook at work? Not even in the same ballpark.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          ANND, check it out, he loves his wife and kid big enough to face this monster he has to battle with!
          It takes a very strong person to write in and say what he said, actually sit and read all our comments and actually answer us.
          This guy is one strong dude.

    12. Elizabeth West*

      Check your county mental health department–there may be therapists who work on a sliding payment scale. Also, does your job have insurance? See if they have an Employee Assistance Program–they’re usually confidential and you can get a referral from there. Ask your doctor as well. He/she may know of a place you can find it. There are lots of resources. :)

      I bet you’d be surprised about what your wife can handle. You’re projecting your own feelings on her, and she may not feel like that at all. And neither one of you is weak, so don’t think of it that way! Everybody needs a little guidance and/or help now and then. We’re social animals, and we’re not made to shoulder all our burdens alone all the time.

  51. AtrociousPink*

    Well, once again, I’m coming into this too late to be noticed amid all the different voices, but just in case, I hope the OP will consider dysthymic depression as a possibility. (This description looks pretty good: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dysthymia/basics/definition/con-20033879). Most people with dysthymia go undiagnosed because they never have the kind of breakdown that leads them to seek help. They just think being unhappy most of the time is their lot in life, so they go (miserably) undiagnosed. But there is help, in the form of both therapists and self-help. There is only one quality book that I’ve been able to find on the subject, and it’s old but quite good and only slightly outdated in some aspects: “Beating the Blues” by Michael Thase.

    1. Alternative*

      Thank you! I did not know the name for that particular form of depression. Very interesting.

  52. This is Me*

    I feel every word he says. I’ve been contemplating getting help myself cause it’s basically effecting every ounce of my personal life as well.

  53. Regular Poster Who Wants to be Anonymous for this Post!*

    Unhappiness at work can definitely manifest itself physically. At a job I had a couple of years ago, I was constantly breaking out in horrible, itchy hives and the stress was wrecking havoc with my gastrointestinal system. Let’s just say that I ended up leaving many pairs of panties in the ladies’ room trash can. Thankfully, when I got out of that situation things improved a lot.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Oh man, for sure. I had the worst stomach issues when at Exjob. They’re still there (it’s partly a physical thing), but it’s nowhere NEAR as bad as it was.

  54. Marmoset*

    Hi OP,

    So great to know you are reading the comments and getting something out of them!

    There is a lot of big stuff in the third paragraph of your comment. Talking about this with your wife is definitely a good idea. Make sure that you explicitly say the things you just said here – it may seem obvious to you that you’re protecting her, but that may or may not match her perspective. I would suggest that you try to keep an eye out for anywhere you are assuming that you know what your wife thinks, feels, wants or needs, and double-check that assumption with her out loud. That will help you both stay on the same page and understand each other fully. :)

    I hope this helps, I wish you absolutely the best. It was brave of you to write in and you sound like a thoughtful, self-aware person. Those qualities will serve you really well as you work through this. Be well!

    1. AntherHRPro*

      OP – You may want to share what you wrote here as I think you did a great job of explaining how you were feeling.

  55. Letter Writer*

    Again, thanks for the comments everyone. I have read them all.

    I do want to point out, that while I am away from work and can get my mind off of it, I am a very happy person. I love my family and being with them most of all (something I feel like work robs me of). I did write this letter on a day when I wasn’t feeling so well at work and rereading it now does make it seem all doom and gloom. So just to put everyone’s mind at ease, I truly am happy when I’m not at/or thinking about work. It’s just the fact that so much of life revolves around work, that’s hard to escape.

    1. Meg Murry*

      In that case, I highly recommend what I mentioned above – consider work a “necessary evil” and then find a job where you have to do as few hours of it as possible. If you have a long commute – consider moving closer. Have lunch with your wife and daughter some days. Consider both you and your wife working part time, or even you being a SAHD (if you could handle the childcare/chores part of it and wouldn’t wind up resenting your child the way you do your job now).

      Last – when was the last time you took vacation days to do something you wanted to do? I find that I am much more equipped to deal with day to day at work when I have a vacation on the calendar – even if its just a long weekend to do nothing but what *I* want to do, like read a book and take a walk.

    2. Libretta*

      I sometimes meet my husband and toddler at the library over my lunch hour. It makes the day better! Also, can your wife send photos of their day? Whether that might make you more sad if you were missing the fun, but I like seeing my daughter having a great time, even if I can’t be there for it. Makes me feel more connected to her instead of in just ‘work mode.’

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Ohhh, this brings up a tear or two. I remember when my father was dying. I so hated every minute of my job. I hated it with every cell in my body. Because I could not be sitting with my dad. Yes, I felt that employer robbed me of my time with my father.

      I said upthread a little, I can see you reeeally love your family. They are fortunate to have you.

  56. Anonathon*

    I think this was mentioned up above, but just to reiterate: definitely look up Mr. Money Mustache! (extensive blog on early retirement) He and his wife retired very young — and they didn’t win the lottery or make a zillion dollars, they don’t live off the grid, and they have a kid. His ideas and philosophy of life likely won’t appeal to everyone, but I think it could be very intriguing for the OP, and they are clearly working for him and numerous others.

  57. Aunt Annie*

    I can totally identify with the OP. I’ve been in and out of therapy the majority of my life, and none of it really helped me with hating work. I thought going to college and leaving behind the pink collar job I had was the answer. I majored in something I love and started to work in the field. I hated it–it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. Then I thought about changing fields, and thought the new field was the answer. It’s not. The job itself is a disappointment, after getting a taste of it I’ve decided this is not the field/career for me, and I’m underemployed with not enough to do at work. I tried going back to school and doing my schoolwork during my downtime at work, but the anxiety I experience while a student is overwhelming so I dropped out. I’m bored out of my mind.
    I was “let go” from my last four jobs, for various reasons. Mostly, I think, because I have such trouble “playing the game.” I’m one of those people the right wingers hate: I collected unemployment until it ran out and I’d still be doing it if it was available. I was never bored when I was at home. I have plenty of things to do and hobbies, and to answer the old “what would you do if you were rich?” question, I’d be pursuing those hobbies and traveling the world.
    I’m kind of resigned to the fact that I have to work. I’m married but my spouse is unable to work for psychological reasons. I have about 13-15 more years before I can retire, and I will keep looking for something more fulfilling. I’m very disappointed, because I thought all my life I would find work I loved. I know I’m probably part of the problem, as just about every job I’ve ever had has gone south for me. But at this point, I feel like I’m too old to make many changes.
    My heart goes out to you, OP.

    1. TCO*

      It’s never too late to make changes. It sounds like your therapy hasn’t been helpful in the past, but I wonder if trying a different therapeutic model or a different therapist would help. It’s not that you have to love your work, but that you’re not finding yourself making self-limiting career decisions out of panic or depression. I wonder if it would be helpful to do a short stint of therapy focused specifically on changing your perspective about work and gaining acceptance of work as a necessary means to fund all of the non-work things you do enjoy in your life.

  58. CocoBeans*

    Unorthodox advice, but do you think it might be helpful for you to shift what you do in your slacking off time at work? You mentioned that you’re playing games on your phone/social media/etc. What would happen if you took some of that time and worked on something that means something to you? For example, you mentioned writing a book. That’s definitely something that you could work on while at work, many people do. I find that when I feel my job and obligations are all there is, I get very resentful. Maybe if you had your own secret little projects to look forward to chipping away at during the day, you might feel a little bit more comfortable and satisfied during the day?

  59. Student*

    It might help to look for a job where you don’t have as much time to think and less opportunity to goof off. Or, maybe you’ll prefer a job where there is much more latitude to goof off.

    For the former, I’m thinking jobs with more of a physical labor component. Warehouse worker. Mail carrier. Garbage disposal worker. Mechanic. Janitor. On the more white-collar, but still physically involved side, there’s a bunch of medical positions (home health aide, nurse).

    For the latter, maybe you should look into jobs where there is naturally lots of down time. Parking lot toll collector. Library support in a small town. Local government clerk in a small town. Cashier in shops that are small or out-of-the-way.

    1. Stephanie*

      This is a good point. I struggled in roles where I had 8+ hours/day for one task (albeit one task that required several intermediate steps to complete) that required intense concentration where that was the only work mode. Temptation to goof off or daydream was strong, especially since I rarely had meetings or anything that discretized the work day into work periods and breaks. I got better at it and learned to create that, but I learned I can’t quite deal with that much unstructured time.

      I thought back about the roles I did well in (including more menial retail roles) and realized I definitely did better in things with more structure. OP, maybe a different type of job might make things at least bearable.

  60. AntherHRPro*

    I find this entire post and the comments fascinating and sad. It never really occurred to me that so many people don’t like to work. I, of course, knew some people didn’t like their job. And I have even said “I hate my job” from time to time, but I really don’t mean it. I get frustrated and annoyed, but I enjoy work and my job. So for me, I am seeing this whole community of individuals who are just trying to get to retirement, which I have trouble relating to. And as an HR person, I just find it sad that so many people are doing the bare minimum to get by and are absolutely miserable for a big chuck of every single day. After all, 8 hours, 5 days a week is a lot of time. It really does trouble me.

    1. Bunny*

      Honestly, I have one of the strongest work ethics I know of (not bragging, I have a reputation for it) and I feel, SO MUCH, what people in this thread are saying.

      I was unemployed for (way, WAY too long) while actively seeking work. I hated the economic insecurity. I hated the constant need to be networking and jobhunting and being an anxious little creature getting turned down again and again.

      But for a few months, when my partner got a job and we agreed I would take a break from job-hunting to help them adjust to working life again, I lived in bliss. My home was spotless, and I actually managed to get a really competent adult housework schedule on the go for the first time in my life. I put time and effort into cooking nutritious and budget-friendly meals. I got into several kinds of exercise that I loved. I massively improved my creative skills – writing, drawing, knitting, embroidery and sewing. My garden bloomed with herbs and flowers and fruit. My pets were better exercised and better attended to than they have ever been before. My family had very regular contact with me, which improved my relationship with my younger cousins immensely. I volunteered at places. I read SO MANY BOOKS. My studies went so well, I got through three months of coursework and practice tests in three weeks. I went swimming in the sea daily in the Summer and foraged for wild growing foods in Autumn. My anxiety went way down, my sleep improved, my skin was glowing and my overall physical and mental health took a massive boost.

      Having a full day, every day, to dedicate to just plain LIVING was a source of immense joy to me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very glad to be back at work and to have stability and, actually, a pretty fantastic place to work for. But those few months have definitely made me re-evaluate my feelings about working. Right now, our plan is to get ourselves to a living situation where we can live off of two part-time wages.

  61. Libretta*

    Hi OP – I want to echo what has been said about therapy and switching roles with your wife, I think those are really good ideas. Just to throw out a couple of other ideas, though – check out homesteading and freegan living – if you are willing to dumpster dive, some people do it for all of their foodstuffs. You could also consider using the welfare/food stamp/food bank system, you could potentially try to live on that while doing odd jobs or whatever you like to make ends meet. It is not much money, but could help with your misery. Or if you could reduce to part time, that might make a huge difference for you.

    Anyway, but I would really recommend discussing this with your wife, hopefully she will be supportive of your feelings and you can maybe come up with solutions together. It is possible she would love to go back to work, even if it is only part-time to give you some breathing room. She probably knows that you are miserable, knowing why and working on a solution could be really beneficial to your partnership as well as your personal well-being. Good luck!

  62. C Average*

    A further thought: I wonder how many of our expectations about work are shaped by the unrealistically high bar set by books, blogs, and other representations of work.

    We’ve got Sheryl Sandberg telling us to lean in, twentysomething tech moguls bloviating about productivity tools that let them squeeze seconds more efficiency into their 18-hour workdays, people using the word “passion project” unironically to talk about workplace activities . . . but let’s face it, most of us are NOT living that dream, and most of us don’t want to.

    You very rarely hear about someone trotting dutifully off to the office every day simply because they like the paycheck and take some pride in having a work ethic. But that’s most people’s reality.

    1. Stephanie*

      This is a good point. IME, this seems to be more the case with white-collar work than blue-collar work. One has to have a passion for procurement, but not for sorting boxes at a warehouse. I definitely have heard of instances where people dutifully trot to work to get a paycheck, but it does seem to be in more blue-collar environments (or it’s at least more accepted to openly admit you’re there because they pay you).

      I wonder if some of the unhappiness results from the cognitive dissonance of being told one needs to have Passion! (TM) at work when one really does just need the check to clear and be timely.

    2. Heather*

      Yes, yes, yes! No one ever points out that Sheryl Sandberg’s book is targeted at women who want to climb the corporate ladder, not women in general.

      1. Programmer 01*

        Ugh, yes. That book felt so victim-blamey, too, as if women weren’t frequently punished for using those exact tactics that happened to work for her. I had a co-worker who was denied a promotion (for someone her junior and less productive in every way) because “She might get pregnant, and then in 9 months we’d be screwed”. In 2010. By someone less than 30 years old. This isn’t old-guard stuff, it’s just really really toxic messaging we’re STILL being taught.

      2. Dynamic Beige*

        I just finished reading it this morning and I think that many of the things she said aren’t necessarily about being a Type-A go-go-go corporate ladder climber — she sure is even if she calls it a jungle gym. But, that bit about not speaking up, about how women are expected to be the office moms/take notes — that can apply to women working anywhere. As it got to the end, I thought she made some very valid points about families. Yes, she’s all kinds of rich and someone who has to stay home because their salary won’t cover their childcare is not something she’s experienced, but she did bring that up. After the first few chapters, I was rolling my eyes because it was so “I was in this important meeting with VIP Male Boss Guy and I was going to turn down this thing, but he said I shouldn’t and when I really thought about it, I was about to screw myself in the foot!” We should all be so lucky to have such mentors. Later I thought about it and I had done similar things, on a lesser scale. Or I saw how some of the things she said, I had had the same self-limiting thoughts. Honestly, if there’s one segment who should read it, it’s men as there was a good bit in there about unconscious bias, I had never thought of it that way before. Yes, she’s privileged but if Jane Doe had written it, no one would have paid attention.

        1. C Average*

          Yeah, I wouldn’t call the book 100% useless. She made some decent points, and it’s possible that the book has opened a few minds. So, good on her.

          But I think the entire premise of the book is based on the assumption that you actually care about your job and want to get ahead and believe you’re doing meaningful work, and I fear that’s just not reality for a lot of people.

        2. Heather*

          I actually liked the book much more than I thought I would – after what I’d heard about it, I was expecting it to be the biggest piece of bullshit since Who Moved My Cheese? (And I totally agree that men should be reading it! If only….)

          That said, though, the underlying assumption behind most of the advice is that the reader is interested in advancing to an executive level. And that’s something that’s almost never mentioned by the pundits who are running around telling women they all need to lean in.

    3. Sharm*

      So, so true.

      I get so ragey whenever someone so much as mentions the name “Sheryl Sandberg” to me. I can’t identify with it at all.

      For me personally, my peers and family are full of tech geniuses, doctors, lawyers, finance types — either people who have “real professions” or are incredibly wealthy. I can never live up to them, but they are also my reality.

  63. Jill*

    As I started reading the original post, I was going to say that, yes, OP is whiney and juvenile. But then, OP, you mentioned working, despite hating it, because you have a wife and child.

    I have someone in my life with a partner and a child and he just decided he didn’t feel like working anymore and just quit going into work so many times that they fired him. He basically left the girlfriend and his boy to the wayside and went on every government handout he could, he couch surfs at friends houses for a place to shower and sleep, and he knows which charities and churches have food pantries and holiday giveaways. In other words, he’s a complete and total mooch that depends on friends, family, and the taxpayers to support him because he decided he was “done” with working. (Full disclosure, he’s my brother).

    So the fact that you seem to genuinely want to be a provider for your family is something to hold on to while you’re sorting things out. It’s a sign that these feelings you have about work are not feelings you WANT to have; instead, it sounds like you really want to be the husband and father that happily works for his loved ones but you just don’t seem to know how to shift your mentality. I hope that vision of you being a happy worker and provider becomes your reality. I agree with others that some therapy could help you, especially if you and your wife can do a role reversal, at least for the time being! Best of luck!!

    1. Jennifer*

      Ouch, Jill, that’s even worse than the folks I used to know (see above). They tended to depend on the kindness of others too.

      Some folks may just never like working…but it’s pretty irresponsible to just bail on that. It’s pretty much bailing on life.

    2. Libretta*

      So I want to defend using the system – this site is full to the brim of people complaining about lazy coworkers who show up late and dump their work in everyone else’s lap. It sounds like your brother might be one of those people. By his own admission, the OP does just barely enough to stay employed. For me – I would rather that people who hate every second of working and make the rest of our lives a little harder just GO. Be happy, use food stamps, use the churches, use the food banks and the shelters, couch surf, dumpster dive – do it all.

      The next time you complain about someone at work who won’t pull their weight – think about who you might work with if there was less stigma associated with using government resources. Even if the OP can find a way to make peace with working – there is no guarantee that he will become a model employee. The people around him are picking up his slack now (sorry OP! I really do have empathy for your situation!), so there is going to be some degree of ‘mooching’ at some level, from coworkers or taxpayers or friends. He is also holding a job that someone else would love to have, and might do a better job at. He might not be ‘mooching’ by your standard, but he is not working, he is getting a paycheck while finding ways to avoid doing work (sorry again, OP!).

        1. Heather*

          I totally agree. Unfortunately the anti-government-assistance types completely control the messaging right now :(

  64. HQ*

    I’m late to this party, but OP, I want to tell you that therapy doesn’t have to go on for months. Therapists recommend you do it for a period of time, but if you can only afford to go once or twice, then once or twice is better than nothing.
    Last year I was in a horrible job (although I didn’t realize it at the time), in denial about my level of depression and anxiety, and ended up in the ER twice with panic attacks. I went to two therapy sessions with a counselor before she moved to another city. Thankfully, she gave me some practical advice I could use right then, rather than spending weeks delving into the minutiae of my childhood. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but sometimes you can’t afford to wait a month.)

    It was only eight months ago, but things have gotten so much better since then ! I can’t even imagine where I’d be now if I didn’t go–dead or in a mental hospital, probably.

  65. SarahBot*

    OP – I normally don’t comment, but I wanted to chime in, because therapy has come up so often in the comments, and 1) I have been seeing a therapist for 7 years now and 2) my therapist and I often discuss my feelings towards work.

    Where I saw a lot of similarities in your letter was the feeling of frustration at having to be at work when there are so many other things I’d rather be doing. I agree with the statement that “I feel like I would be a better happier person if work just wasn’t in my life.” And I think a lot of other commenters have agreed with that too.

    My mindset is somewhat different from yours – while I’m not normally actively miserable while at work, I do have a weird (to me), deep-seated resentment of the fact that I have to work. (I say “weird” because I was raised by two working parents, in a lower-middle-class family, where “having a job when you grow up” was always presented as a future inevitability – there was no possibility of not having a job as an adult. And yet here I am.)

    I am a high performer at my job (mostly because, along with my resentment of work, I have a deep-seated perfectionism and need to earn other people’s approval), but I occasionally go through weeks of just feeling that “WHY?” and it makes being present (and performing well) at work very difficult.

    So what dealing with this in therapy has looked like (and continues to look like) for me, in a few nutshells:

    -Discussing my feelings about work with my therapist (which in itself was helpful, because I also thought that my feelings about work meant that I was somehow lesser than other people);
    -Investigating which of those feelings were based in the job I had when I started therapy (which was a harmful environment) and which were overall work-related;
    -Talking through *where* some of the logic behind those feelings came from (see my comment to the_scientist above about my mindset of “it doesn’t matter how terrible your job is, because all jobs are terrible, so just suck it up and stay in the same job forever”) and examine whether or not those stood up to reality;
    -Reading many books about self-discovery and aligning one’s life with one’s goals (two of my favorites are Wishcraft by Barbara Sher and Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck);
    -Discussing / moving towards accepting several specific realities about my life, including: I have a chronic disease that requires money to ensure I receive care; I choose not to go into business for myself because it’s not a good fit with my temperament / skills;
    -Discussing / moving towards accepting that, given the above realities, the choice that gives me the closest thing to what I want is working at a normal 8-to-5 job;
    -Discussing / moving towards accepting the fact that it’s okay if I’m not completely in love with my job; it’s okay if I’m not a super-high ambitious ladder-climber in my job; it’s okay to have a job just to have a job and not to WIN AT JOBBING;
    -Discussing / moving towards accepting that this is a choice I’m making because I’m willing to pay the price (i.e., 40 hours of my week each week) for the benefits that I’m receiving (salary, vacation time, health benefits, praise for my performance, trust / flexibility / autonomy, etc.);
    -Thinking about which parts of my mandatory-but-also-actively-chosen-by-me job I like the best (creating order from chaos; having fun-but-ultimately-surface interactions with my pleasant co-workers; having access to benefits like vacation days), and aiming my work to those areas whenever possible;
    -Realizing that I do have agency in my job – I have the ability to set boundaries and not just genuflect to my boss, as long as it’s within the scope of my job, I’m conducting myself respectfully, and my boss is a reasonable person;
    -Finding things in my outside-of-work life that made me happy and gave my life meaning / fulfillment, since I have decided that those things won’t be coming from my job (these wax and wane for me over time, but have included: knitting, cross-stitch, cooking, roller derby, etc.);
    -Continuing to be mindful of these feelings, and continuing to discuss them with my therapist, to see if anything’s changed in my circumstances that requires me to re-evaluate the plan I’ve chosen.

    I know that the above list may not be helpful to you, given the differences between us, but I wanted to through it out there to give you a sense of some of the things that therapy might help with, and introduce some possibly-helpful avenues of thought. I am wishing you the best.

  66. SarahBot*

    Oh, ALSO – as someone whose husband has also struggled with his jobs in the past, my experience is that it’s important for you to find some peace with this issue (whether that’s finding a different path or if that’s feeling better about your current work) not only for yourself, but also for your family. When my husband is unhappy at work, it absolutely bleeds through into our home life and makes us both unhappy.

    1. Celeste*

      This is so true. At some point your child will ask you about work, what you do, and do you like it, and so on. It’s only natural. When it happened to me at a time when I was pretty unhappy at work, I said that I picked it because I was good at science and art, and this was a job that paid really well for doing science so that on the weekends I would have enough money left over to do art. She said that made a lot of sense! Even if you don’t feel optimistic, you have to find a way to present optimism of some kind to kids because otherwise what is their incentive to grow up?

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Another great point. My father hated his job. I thought it must be hell to work and earn a living. It took me a while to realize this was not the case.

  67. Bunny*

    Please believe me that not enjoying working is far from abnormal. I can say I “like” my new job. What I mean is that I have a very short commute (near enough I can walk it), a decent wage for what is so far not terribly taxing or stressful work, I get along well with my co-workers and the free coffee is delicious. I also mean that I’m working in a company where I can see many avenues for advancement should I choose to take them, and which is large enough that I have options to move if I choose to with the possibility of merely transferring to another location rather than having to job search.

    But honestly, if I woke up tomorrow knowing I’d never have to worry about eating or paying bills or keeping a roof over my head again, I’d quit immediately and never go back. There are endless lists of things that I’d rather be doing than being at work. So when I say “I like my job” what it really comes down to is that, having accepted that some sort of employment is unavoidable, this job is one of the best I’ve encountered. And I work hard partly because I want to support the people working with me/not be a drain on their day and partly because spending hours sinking into my chair with boredom only makes the working day go slower.

    Very few people genuinely enjoy employment, any more than they genuinely enjoy housework or paying bills or any of the other things that go with being responsible for yourself and others. That said, what is unusual, I think, is the severity of your negative feelings about work. If you’re this miserable, that’s no way to live.

    It’s possible there might be career paths out there that would make you happy – would you enjoy working the land on a smallholding? Or having your own, small, cottage industry where you sell things you produce yourself? Obviously all jobs come with downsides and looking into self-employment shouldn’t be taken lightly, but it IS an option to consider. But if the thought of any kind of employment fills you with the amount of misery you’re describing, I’d definitely take up Alison’s advice to seek therapy (or even if it doesn’t – therapy can be a great way to help you think your way to solutions or life changes for yourself regardless). There may be some underlying issues contributing to what you’re going through.

    No armchair diagnosis here, but FWIW, my other half is… not quite as bad as you in terms of how negatively working effects him. But not far off. And for him, this is a symptom of his depression, which specifically limits and even halts his ability to get the little bursts of satisfaction and endorphins most of us get from stuff like work. Where I might really not like, say, changing the cat litter, but would get a small endorphin kick from seeing the clean and tidy result of it and from the subsequent improvement in smell, he’d get only the misery and boredom and none of those little pleasure-centres in his brain would react in a way he can register.

  68. Cecilia*

    I feel for you, OP. I feel like that occasionally. Not all day, every day, but a few times a year. Usually during our slow periods when there is literally nothing to do; I have already cleaned/organized everything and I sit here waiting for the phone to ring. I think about all the other things I could be doing but I am stuck in this building because I have to have a paycheck coming in. I think almost everyone feels like once or twice.

    The shaking and cold hands are symptoms my son has with his panic attacks. He also gets a heavy feeling in his chest & arm, numbness in his arm & face and, sometimes, is literally at the point of tears. As soon as he leaves, he starts to feel better. When he has the day off, he is fine. When he had his first panic attack, it was so bad that he was transported to the ER because they thought he was having a heart attack.

    I would definitely take the advice of admin and previous posters and talk to the doctor. You truly have my sympathy. Life is hard enough without feeling miserable all day long.

  69. Margeux*

    I haven’t read all the comments, but does anyone else see a big red flag in: “Sometimes I feel like if anyone at work, no matter how nice they are or who they are, were to speak to me I would go off on them or do something even worse.”

    1. Kelly L.*

      It’s definitely concerning. It’s probably something he should discuss with the therapist we’ve recommended. I have a few nebulous thoughts on it, but IANAPsychologist.

  70. Steve*

    You have options outside of 9-5 work, the trouble is, you claim or appear to be lazy with no drive. My uncle works one day per week cleaning gutters. Makes 1k every Saturday and has the rest of the time off. Some people make $2k per week assembling furniture on Task Rabbit, the trouble is you hate any work.

    What do you do at home? Do you mow your lawn or do chores?

  71. Sarah*

    I wanted to chime in and strongly recommend that the OP read the book “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl, specifically the second half which is about Frankl’s approach to therapy and his psychological theories around satisfaction, self actualization, and resilience (the first half of the book is about the author’s experience during the holocaust, and the life experiences that contributed to creating his approach.)

  72. Observer*

    I have not read all of the responses, so I may be repeating some things with out knowing it.

    I agree with everyone who says you should get yourself to a therapist. It’s not going to be a magic bullet and you are going to need to work at it, but still important. You may have to try more than one therapist though.

    I also agree that you should absolutely get your physical health thoroughly checked out. That does not negate the issue of therapy, because odds are that even if you find a medical issue that you can treat, you wills till have all this baggage to deal with. But, things like anemia, low thyroid, low Vitamin D can make a real mess out of a person and also present the kinds of physical symptoms you mention.

    Lastly, I would try just changing your behavior. Just as attitude affects behavior, behavior affects attitude. Obviously you are not going to change all of your behavior all at once. But start with one thing at a time. Like, find ONE thing at work that you will improve on. Find ONE type of interaction with people at work that you will improve on. (Not make them perfect, just improve.) And try to consciously note to yourself when something does go right. This is not magic, but this kind of thing can really help.

  73. Katie the Fed*

    Damn, this is such a nice community here. Seriously – so much compassion and sound advice.

    1. Stephanie*

      I was thinking the same thing, even if it feels a little self-congratulatory. I’m glad people were able to empathize or give sound advice without saying “Suck it up, buttercup.”

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah. Really. Alison brings in some interesting questions and the conversation that follows never fails to enlighten.. well, it’s engaging, I keep wanting to come back again and read more.

    3. Heather*

      I agree! Although it’s a little ironic that one of the few not-so-nice comments showed up directly below this one…

  74. Amy (the other one)*

    “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden” was a big hit when I was in high school. Perhaps that’s why I never had the problem the OP writes about.

    To the milennials here, could a song with this lyrics have been popular with your generation?


    1. I'm a Little Teapot*

      That’s really unnecessary. And the stereotyping of Millennials as spoiled little whiners which your comment implies is pretty offensive to people who spent most of their adult lives in the worst recession in decades and for whom the real value of the average American’s wages has been declining for their whole lives while the costs of housing, health care, and education skyrocket.

    2. kt*

      Any chance there could be an official ban on millenial-bashing in these comments? This gets really, really old. (I’m a new poster, but not a new reader.)

  75. Liz in a Library*

    Oh man, OP. I have to add my voice to the many others suggesting you look into alternatives (alternative careers, having your wife work part time, whatever else works for you).

    I sympathize with you to such a great degree. I’ve always been unhappy at work, even when I had an objectively fantastic job. My personal unhappiness was tied to severe anxiety about failure (I’ve totally excelled at the jobs where this was the biggest issue; our brains are weird), and it was severe. Like you, I’d be seriously, intensely miserable all the time. Crying in my car every morning on the way in, hiding from people in every way I could, slacking off occasionally (which would only increase the anxiety). I had reached the point where I was seriously pondering how I could stage an accident where I wouldn’t die, but would maybe break an arm or leg or something that’d keep me home for a while. Not an awesome place to be.

    For me, what worked was leaving the workforce. Luckily, I had my spouse’s total buy-in. I left a job that was the best job I’ve ever had, and it was the best possible decision. I’ve been unemployed for almost a year now, and I just feel insanely happier and healthier. There are significant trade-offs, but it was absolutely 100% worth it.

    My guess is that your wife senses that you are unhappy. My husband absolutely did. Maybe the two of you can work together to figure out what the thing is that you can do to get yourself into a better place? Alison’s suggestions and those others have left are a great starting point: could you both work part-time, could you consider a different kind of work, could you find work where you have more personal control, could she work so that you can stay home? Your happiness is absolutely worth making some sacrifices for here.

    I will warn you, there are some people who will be super judgmental if you stop working. It should be easier for you because, legitimate or not, people consider staying home with kids more “OK” than staying home for your own sake. I don’t think those people are worth sacrificing your happiness for in any case. As you’ve seen from folks here, you’re far more likely to encounter other people who are incredibly unhappy at work and completely get how you feel.

    1. Amy*

      Working is part of the human condition. Excessive anxiety or being miserable just because you have a job – those are not part of the human condition. If you didn’t have the option of not working, couldn’t you have gotten therapy or tried medication? Anxiety is not due to work. It’s due to anxiety.

      1. Liz in a Library*

        In general? Or for me personally?

        For me personally, I made the best possible decision. I have tried medications. I am a huge believer in therapy. But I also believe that people are different and that it isn’t part of the human condition that we all must do the same things.

        1. Amy*

          So if your husband weren’t a great guy but instead was an abusive jerk, you’d stay in the marriage just to avoid going back to work?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            But that’s not her situation. For her, in her particular situation, she found a solution that works for her and her husband. That’s all that really matters.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I think that anxiety can be work related. Anyone who has worked in a toxic environment is painfully aware of how that tears down human health.
        Additionally, profound allergies to work place chemicals can also trigger anxiety problems.

        And finally, if a person knows at their very core they are not where they are supposed to be this, too, can trigger anxiety attacks.

        1. Amy*

          But that’s not what she said. She said “I’ve always been unhappy at work, even when I had an objectively fantastic job. My personal unhappiness was tied to severe anxiety about failure”

          …which means it’s not about one workplace

  76. Lipton Tea For Me*

    I can so relate OP. I too hate my job with a purple passion, mostly because it does now allow me to be me. I feel like it sucks my soul out of my body so when I am off work, I hardly have the energy or motivation to do the things I do enjoy. Now I realize there is a bit of depression throw into the mix as many times when I feel like I am up against the wall with no where to turn, everything in front of me just looks bleak. I also agree that possibly doing a blood test to determine electrolytes and vitamin deficiencies is not a bad idea and therapy as well. But the one thing I didn’t see mentioned in the many responses is that a therapist will also be able to help you with coping strategies until you find a way out of the “hate work conundrum”. Somehow I managed to live on hardly any income for 4 months because I couldn’t talk myself into going to work on a regular basis. I managed to get there often enough to pay for all the deductions, but it left me nothing to live off of. I literally just didn’t care and came very close to losing my house. The best suggestion I have is share how you feel with your wife without looking for a fix or a solution as it truly helps just to talk with someone else and then piece by piece investigate your health and take advantage of anything offered at work such as the EAP. And the last piece of advice, take it one step at a time as you do not want to overwhelm yourself and end up back where you are now; sometimes you do have to focus on the tree rather that the forest.

  77. Amy*

    Voice of dissent here – having strong feelings of hating work isn’t necessarily about work. I have only once felt that way about a job and it was an involuntary transfer and a mismatch. I went to therapy, worked hard at sorting things out, then I quit and eventually found a job in my field. There are problems in every job, and everybody fantasizes about being rich enough not to work. Being psychologically distressed by what is a totally normal lifestyle to me, anyway, indicates a psychological issue that therapy and possibly medication could address.

    Nobody owes anybody a living. Nobody gets paid just to show up. I’ve had the good fortune to live & work in cities with big homeless populations & to get to know some homeless. Guess what? They sometimes get that way because don’t like work, they don’t like being told what to do, and they won’t cooperate with pscyhological or drug treatment because they don’t like being told what to do. The OP suggested being homeless was an option. I think he should try it for awhile. Or find a job as a janitor or farm worker. It might put some gratitude into his attitude when he finds another job.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I am not sure that this fits OP’s setting. I think if attitude of gratitude was going to work for him, he would have tried it by now and he would not be writing Alison.

      1. Amy*

        There was nothing in the OP that said he’d tried gratitude. Only trying different kinds of jobs.

    2. neverjaunty*

      And sometimes homeless people get that way because they have neurological or mental disorders that prevent them from just showing up and putting in their 8 hours like everyone else. Getting snotty lectures about putting “gratitude in their attitude” won’t fix that.

      P.S.: Nice touch dissing janitors and farm workers by suggesting their jobs are so awful, anyone who does them for a while would be forever content with any other employment.

      1. Amy*

        Homeless people get that way for a variety of reasons, which is why I said *sometimes* Actually, my brother is homeless due to schizophrenia, not laziness. He was a very hard worker before he got sick.

        For someone who has the wherewithall to show up every day and work at a job to complain about hating having to do it is ungrateful! So perhaps I should have suggested spending some time in a mental ward with people who can’t work due to their illness.

        I have supervised people with cushy jobs (cushy enough to allow them to surf the web on the job, like the OP’s job) who don’t appreciate what they have. Doing without the great burden of a job for awhile and seeing what it’s like for people who *can’t* work may give this person some insight and gratitude.

        Janitors have a thankless job, and I assumed the OP has a desk job. I have personally worked at motel housekeeping during college, so I know how hard it is. I am not denigrating it – I am trying to get across that the OP has things pretty good and complaining about it seems very ungrateful. I have never felt that I shouldn’t have to work for a living then or now.

        I think the OP writer gave it away when he said “Let me first say that this email might come across as whiny and/or juvenile” — yes it does come across that way. This is a psychological issue, and if the OP can’t or won’t seek psychological counseling, the workplace equivalent of “Scared straight” may do the trick.

        1. Just Visiting*

          The only jobs that I’ve not-hated enough to work at them full time without much emotional distress are physical blue-collar jobs. One person’s “cushy” is another person’s “torment.”

        2. C Average*

          I’m not sure ingratitude is a useful way to frame the OP’s problem.

          He’s not ungrateful. He recognizes that by most people’s standards, he has it good. He recognizes that as a matter of integrity he should be doing a better job. Intellectually, he completely understands that he should be grateful for his good fortune in having a steady, undemanding, decently remunerative job. He doesn’t need some come-to-Jesus experience to arrive at these realizations.

          In fact, I think that’s part of why he’s conflicted. He knows he doesn’t have an objectively good reason to hate his work . . . and yet he does. And he’s trying to figure out how to make sense of that situation and how to find some happiness.

          Is it a privileged problem to have? Sure. Is it a problem worth approaching constructively rather than judgmentally? Yeah, I think so, especially in a place like AAM, which ought to be a safe space for a little first-world existential workplace ennui and discontent.

          (Side note: I admit I bristle at the menial-job-mental-job continuum. I’ve had and loved mindless menial jobs. I’ve had and chafed at desk jobs. I don’t think one is objectively more pleasant than the other one. If money wasn’t a factor, I’d take the janitorial role in a hot second. Anyone who thinks it’s easy to sit at a desk and be mentally “on” and 100% on task all day is delusional. It’s so much easier to be “on” all day in a hands-on job than it is in a creative one.)

          1. Amy*

            “Yeah, I think so, especially in a place like AAM, which ought to be a safe space for a little first-world existential workplace ennui and discontent.”

            HA! This is not a safe place! You haven’t been paying attention. People are judgmental about all kinds of things here.

            Nobody expects 100% perfection, and anyone who thinks that other people do is delusional! Nobody is suggesting that. This blog is about management, from a manager’s perspective. Well, I’m a manager and I’m here to tell you that if you disappeared tomorrow a dozen qualified people would send in excellent resumes. Complaining about ennui at a good job is like complaining about the service at the Four Seasons. A little perspective will fix that ennui.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              But a little perspective won’t fix it. The OP isn’t describing a situation where he’s bored and feeling entitled. He’s describing (what sounds to me like) a pretty serious issue that warrants therapy. Telling him to fix it with a little perspective or some gratitude is like telling someone to fix their broken leg with gratitude that they have the other one. It’s unkind, unrealistic, and unhelpful.

            2. C Average*

              It may not be a safe space for bad behavior, but it’s a safe space for confessing your true feelings about your job, be they shallow, inappropriate, ungrateful, or otherwise not aligned with the feelings your manager or your employer thinks you ought to have. That’s why it’s valuable.

              You’re right: I could be easily replaced. I will be easily replaced when I leave my job in a couple of weeks. And the qualified person with the excellent resume who replaces me will complain about trivial things and fail to consistently thank her lucky stars she’s earning $45k a year to spend 50 hours a week sitting in a cube writing FAQs. She’ll probably spend too much time looking at AAM and Facebook, or whatever social media diversion is her particular poison. She will not focus on the fact that baristas all over the city would give their eyeteeth for her job, any more than said baristas will focus on the fact that homeless people all over the city would give their eyeteeth for THEIR jobs.

              A side note: Despite the fact that I consistently show up early, stay late, do excellent work, and mostly do my best (especially when it counts), I haven’t felt particularly appreciated by my employer for quite a while, and in a strictly economic arrangement like a job, it’s hard to maintain gratitude when it’s not a two-way street.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yeah, I’m not sure that gratitude for having a job is a thing that we should scold people for not having, or even expect them to have. The best employees have options, after all — they’re not grateful to their employer for giving them a job because it’s a two-way street where both are benefitting and they know they could go elsewhere if they decided to. I don’t think employers should expect gratitude from employees, and in fact expecting that generally goes hand-in-hand with some really nasty management practices. Employers should expect responsibility, hard work, conscientiousness, thoughtfulness, pleasantness… but not gratitude.

                1. Heather*

                  I love this. I think it should be on little signs that people can hold up every time they hear “You should just be happy you have a job” after they voice a legitimate complaint about work. :)

      2. Amy*

        Getting snotty lectures about not being snotty isn’t helpful either. I said it was a dissenting opinion — there’s too much coddling in the workplace today. When so many people are unemployed, to be ungrateful about a job (yes, ungrateful!) is shameful. The OP has the option to leave the job, and someone who will be grateful (yes, grateful!) for the job will be able to take it.

        1. kt*

          Bluntly, no one’s trying to be helpful to you. People are trying to be helpful to the OP and people in similar situations, to whom you are being actively unhelpful, and people are asking you to stop that.

      3. nonegiven*

        Plenty of janitors and farm workers are happy people who do well in their jobs.

        My cousin went to college and became a banker after graduation. He was not happy. Now he is a firefighter who owns rental houses. Happier and makes more money.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      Can we stop, please, with the blue collar condescension? I’m so sick of it.

      There is nothing with any kind of skilled or unskilled labor. People are making an honest living and doing jobs that need to be done. I actually really wish I knew some basic skills like plumbing. Yeah, I’m glad my delicate hands don’t get too dirty on a day to day basis, but I really respect the hell out of people who do messy and sweaty jobs.

      1. Amy*

        As the child of a blue collar single mom who has worked at blue collar (pink collar) jobs, I think the people here who don’t seem to be blue collar workers should get to know some of them. You’ll find gratitude for a job that pays a living wage, a willingness to work hard at a crappy job they hate, and most of all no complaining about having to work at all.

        I’m not dissing the blue collar – I’m dissing the elite (or would-be elite) who think they shouldn’t have to work. Don’t believe me? Find someone with a blue collar job you would totally detest and ask them how they feel about it. You won’t find resentment about having to work at all. The ones I’ve known don’t resent having to work. They only resent people who shirk their jobs and make it harder for everyone else.

    4. kt*

      I think this thread has been damn near unanimous that the OP’s problem is about more than just work and indicates psychological issues that therapy and medication could address. What is it you’re dissenting from?

      1. Amy*

        I’m dissenting from the rest, who agree that they hate having to work and they sympathize with the OP writer. I sympathize with mental illness, but I don’t sympathize with the posters who piled on and made their own complaints.

        Sometimes an attitude change really is all that’s needed, not therapy. We don’t know that much about the OP other than what he said about himself. Having known poverty and with mentally ill relatives, I want to smack anyone with a job who wishes they didn’t have to work. For every job opening there are dozens of applicants, so why hog that job if someone else would appreciate it?

        Would the OP writer really enjoy being homeless? Perhaps. Some people do make a conscious choice to drop out of society. If he quits his job perhaps a homeless person who doesn’t want to be in a shelter will have an opportunity to better their life by taking his job.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m not sure why we’d assume his job would go to a homeless person.

          More importantly, though, we don’t have any reason to assume that the OP’s problems could be solved by simply being grateful that he has a job. His letter suggests that it’s far, far beyond something that could be solved so easily. It feels a bit glib to me to say “just be grateful.”

          1. Amy*

            (I didn’t mean literally a homeless person, but it would be someone who would appreciate the job)

        2. Lipton Tea For Me*

          I generally respond to things that resonate with me and hardly ever jump into the fray when comments seem to go off the deep end, but I have to say your input on this subject wasn’t helpful at all and honestly, it seemed almost hateful to me. True this is not just about work, there is more at play here but we are human beings and where we go our baggage goes as well.
          To me, it felt like you attacked someone who allowed himself to be vulnerable enough to say this is how he felt and to ask for suggestions and acknowledgment that he was not alone. How you got ungrateful out of that is beyond me.
          He didn’t say he didn’t want to work, he said he hated it and that is not the same thing. I hate work as well and I would bet you there are millions out in the world that feel the same way and would much rather be doing something else…I would rather win the lottery and work at something I enjoy. The fact that you want “…to smack anyone with a job who wishes they didn’t have to work”, would be a serious red flag to me.
          As a manager, I would rather have an employee like the OP than one like yourself because the OP has the courage to voice his thoughts, to ask for help and to be an active participant in a resolution. Who is to say that where he works isn’t dysfunctional and contributing to his unhappiness? Change usually begins with unhappiness and the OP has taken the first step. You on the other hand have just figuratively smacked down what might have been the best team player you ever had on your team due to a lack of empathy with a fellow human being.

  78. Amy*

    I said at the outset his problem isn’t a work problem. His lack of gratitude may be a deep-seated psychological issue, and I didn’t say that’s all he needed – but it can’t hurt to gain some perspective.

    When I go to management training one of the complaints I hear from other managers is that people have a sense of entitlement, as if having a job isn’t a privilege. Not all of those entitled people have serious mental illnesses. Some just need a reality check. Nobody was saying that here, so I said it.

      1. Amy*

        It actually does sound like it to me. Being unemployed for even a few months with no income could be just the thing the doctor ordered. Then he’d be eligible for sliding scale psychological help if he couldn’t get up the desire to go back to work.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think you’re way off-base here.

          I also think you’re oddly focused on gratitude and the idea that having a job is a privilege, which I just don’t agree with in this context.

          I just wrote this above, but it’s relevant here too. Good employees don’t need to have gratitude; their employment is a two-way business arrangement where both are benefitting and they know they could go elsewhere if they decided to. I don’t think employers should expect gratitude from employees, and in fact expecting that generally goes hand-in-hand with some really nasty management practices. Employers should expect responsibility, hard work, conscientiousness, thoughtfulness, pleasantness… but not gratitude.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            CONCUR! I don’t expect my employees to feel gratitude for being employed. They’re (generally) good at their jobs and are contributing a lot. If anyone’s grateful they’re here it’s me.

        2. BRR*

          Why should anybody (not just the LW) be thankful just to have a job? Why can’t we strive for people to be happy?

          I get where you’re coming from that many would be thankful to have a job. But at one end of the spectrum you’re happy at your job. You like what you do and your employer is thankful you are there working for them. On the other end is you hate what you do and the company treats you like crap. I don’t know personally where you fall but if it’s at the good end why shouldn’t others be as happy in their life as well? If you’re at the bad end why would you suck it up instead of trying to get where you are happy?

          As Alison says above, it’s miserable when an employer thinks you should gravel at their feet for the privilege of working for them.

        3. BRR*

          Two other points:

          1) Most of us have to work to get by. We have to usually end up being our own best advocate. And that includes taking a job. Most of us can’t sacrifice to the greater good.

          2) The LW was very brave in writing in and asking for advice. Many people wouldn’t ask for help and responding with get an attitude adjustment isn’t exactly helpful. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume they tried that. I would say most people are thankful to have a job if they do but don’t consider it a privilege. We try to find something we enjoy doing for a large amount of time every week for the majority of our lives and some of us get more out of it than others but even for those of us who love our jobs and love working, we aren’t working out of the sheer enjoyment of it.

    1. kt*

      Having a job isn’t a privilege, and it’s certainly not something for which a person owes “gratitude” (to whom, anyway? The employer? They don’t employ people out of the goodness of their hearts, and oh lord does that attitude make me see red. A job is not a gift or a favor; it’s a voluntary trade of time and skill and labor for money from which both parties ostensibly benefit.)

      And I’m pretty sure the reason no one was saying the OP just needs a reality check is that it doesn’t look at all like the OP just needs a reality check. The OP is clearly very self-aware and clearly wants to not feel this way. You seem to be responding to something completely different than this actual letter and these actual comments.

      And if you really think “it can’t hurt to gain some perspective” please read the sub-thread started by I’m Not Me Today and its comments. Many, many people feel this way and are very self-aware about it and are actually kind of wracked by guilt about it — and yet, that doesn’t make them magically not feel that way. This clearly resonates with a lot of people. It is not so simple as “well! tsk tsk, get a little perspective! it can never hurt!” That’s really glib and really dismissive and not helpful.

  79. Raptor*

    As I haven’t noticed anyone with this post, but I feel the following website clearly spoke to me about what depression feels like for someone who’s never had it before, not really. It’s like having dead goldfish, but everyone is just telling you how to take care of goldfish. And I get it better now… I hope… at least well enough that I will never again think that people who are unhappy should just get over it.

    If you haven’t read hyperboleandahalf’s stuff before, she’s very funny… but this one is one of her more serious posts. Good luck to the OP and to anyone else out there. For the rest of us who don’t get depression, here’s the two parts to her story.

    Part 1: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2011/10/adventures-in-depression.html
    Part 2: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2013/05/depression-part-two.html

    1. Lipton Tea For Me*

      Yeah, her posts on depression were right on the nose. Depression is a disease that can break you very quickly and getting help for it is still difficult due to the stigma attached.

  80. Just Visiting*

    I understand where the OP is coming from. I don’t have a problem with actually working (I would much rather be occupied at work than have to surf the web all day for lack of work, I’ve had many jobs like that), but I do have a problem with actually being at work. Being around other people, having to deal with the social niceties, people judging me for being an unfeminine woman or not being able to conform to middle-class norms, actually commuting to work, etc. The breaking point came at my last full-time job when I found out someone I worked with (and who considered themself to be one of my best friends, long story there) turned out to have some very odious views and I was like, why am I spending more time with YOU than I am with my spouse and my real friends? Yes, I know that these are things that most people can just suck up, but I couldn’t. I also have a delayed sleep cycle as a result of my ADHD, and five days of constant sleep-dep (I literally cannot fall asleep until after midnight unless I am physically sick) was killing me.

    The solution for me was part-time work. I still get anxious and shaky sometimes, but my week is two days shorter than it was and that has made literally all the difference. This may not be a solution for the OP due to finances, but maybe it is? I also supplement my income with freelancing and another SUPER part time job. I am probably busier than I was when I was working full-time but it feels like way less. I don’t go into my “work week” dreading it, because it’s so short! Even if I have a bad week it’s almost over by the time it begins. I genuinely do like most of the people I’m working with now but I still don’t want to be there five days straight.

    I don’t have a child and will never have one, and I’m giving up the financial benefits of a stable full-time schedule to do this. We live like college kids. But for me it’s been worth it. I’ve tried therapy and medications, but I never felt like any of those things solved the problem, they were just intended to help me cope with something that my deepest core told me was untenable. Part-time work solved like 80% of my emotional problems. I was unemployed for a time (while my spouse worked) and that was better than FT work but not as good as this. I don’t know if it will solve your problems — like I said, my problem with working isn’t the work but the social factor — but if you can financially swing it, perhaps you could try for a reduced schedule on a trial basis and see if that helps?

  81. NE*

    OP, not sure if we are in the same boat exactly, but I really identify with your comment about not liking other people telling me what to do and not having control over my own schedule.

    Why not seriously explore the alternative paths you’re drawn to? It may take a few years to implement an exit strategy, but there’s a way out of the corporate life if that doesn’t work for you. It’s all give and take and balancing your options. What compromises can you make to achieve the life you want? And is that really the life you want? Spend a month or two living in the woods with your family – or make a deal with your wife for you to go off on your own for three weeks.

    I have found that working for myself makes a huge mental difference. My friends with day jobs do not understand why I turned down a full-time job with benefits to work part-time hours as a contractor, but the self-employed ones get it. You may have the same experience. It’s technically more ‘work’ in the sense that there’s a lot of administrative BS I have to take care of (or hire someone else to take care of it for me), but I feel much more in control of my life this way.

    If you start looking around, you’ll find other people who live this way. I found it very helpful to be in contact with people who were living outside the corporate world. It reminded me that it is possible to make a good living without having to be trapped in an office 8-5 and also made me feel like I wasn’t broken for feeling antagonized by corporate life.

  82. EvaR*

    I have a mental illness that sometimes causes strong stress reactions. Like you know that “look at that bitch eating crackers” ecard? Basically it turns everything into that. A lot of it is actually triggered by certain things in thr environment, though, like high levels of noise combined with bright lights or too much heat.
    This reply was pretty spot on. In the future you may be able to find certain factors that give you this feeling and find jobs which don’t make you feel this way. This could also be a sign of depression, hormone imbalnces, or a host of treatable disorders. Definately talk to a doctor and get referred to a therapist if need be.

  83. Late to the party*

    I’m late here, but I have very similar feelings to the OP. Sometimes I am convinced that my Powerball ticket will hit and I can resume a happy life. Some days do go by where I’m happy at work, but I often don’t feel like I should be working and want to spend time doing good… giving away money, volunteering, spending time with friends and family that I neglect because of work.

    For the OP, I would also consider retail and restaurant jobs. For many, these are not fulfilling and very thankless jobs. But, you can work unique hours, make decent money, and don’t have to be as mentally “on” as an office job.

  84. Eightmind*

    I’m glad to see so many other posters speak to this whole idea of “passion!” and how annoying it is. I’ve been in HR for about 20 years (please don’t throw anything at me) and I’m fatigued on the ever-growing delusion that a good employee must be one who is just brimming with engagement at all times and just can’t wait to spring to work every day.

    I’m not lazy–at home I’m unstoppable–but I’d love to see more workplaces offer part time schedules for professional level jobs. I have known many people who were miserable full time but damn good part time.

  85. George Graham*

    My Internet diagnosis is that there is nothing wrong with you a lottery win couldn’t cure and that you’re experiencing valid reactions to the skidmark that is known as work.

    The notion that you should talk it out or be medicated is the real psychopathy here, symptomatic of the belief that it’s okay a third or half your day is wasted for money when it’s not. I proscribe some help for those suggestees. You, a year long holiday to Bermuda. Bring sunglasses.

  86. Musiclady420*

    I though the I was the only one. I do liKe my work. But I wish I didn’t have to work either. Everything this guy said is the same thing I feel. Surprisingly, I do like my career choice but I would love to not have to punch a clock. Maybe this guy could be like me and find a rewarding career. I’m a massage therapist and even though there are day I have to force myself to go to work. The thing that helps me then get to work was knowing that my clients are in NEED of me. That is a feeling is the best feeling in the world! And it makes me highly requested! Prior I was a truck driver and was not happy at all. There was good times. If you want to be a writer than go for it! I almost lost everything and did lose my house to become a Massage Therapist. However, I’ve been pretty happy doing it for the last 9 years. So, I make almost $50,000/year less than my trucking position! But it was the best decision I ever made! I work 30 hours a week, make $30,000/year, and the best is the fulfillment I get in helping others! So, it makes it easier to get my butt to work. Also, I have the best boss in the world. Even if I don’t show it to her.

  87. Straight As*

    This is actually more normal than you think. I, too, hate work with a passion. But, unlike the OP, I worked hard in school and liked collecting As. I’m a perfectionist and always strive for excellence, in everything I do — even at my job, in the beginning. Then I realized it didn’t make any difference in the eyes of my boss and colleagues, and I lowered my standards, which allows me to get more stuff done in less time so I can spend part of my work day just daydreaming, writing personal emails or blogs, reading e-books and brainstorming personal projects.

    I’m lucky enough to work in the creative field of my choice, but I think the difference for me is that while I was in school, I was learning and bettering myself, so I was the direct beneficiary of all my efforts. At work, the company is benefiting from my efforts and time, and what do I get in return? I don’t feel valued as a human being because I’m a wage slave — I hate having to sell my skills, talents, time and energy in exchange for a paycheck that barely enables me to survive + two meager weeks off in the whole year. But I would hate it even if I made big money — in fact, I would be even more enslaved and would be asked to live and breathe for the company. Who cares about a company I didn’t even contribute to create? But I hate business too much to start my own company. Everything is fake — the terminology, the attire, the interactions, the culture… everything.

    I’m just longing for a genuine, simple life where I can be free to be myself and enjoy life with the people I love. Who wouldn’t want to be at home with their family instead of being thrown into an artificial environment with random people all working their asses off for something they don’t have a personal stake in or someone else who’s taking home most of the profits? If I could stay at home all the time, I would never be bored. I’m not lazy — I would take classes to learn more things and skills, read, write blogs and maybe even books, make art and crafts, volunteer to help people, animals and the environment, and so on and so forth. I just hate being exploited and sitting at a desk during “business hours.” I hate being unable to go out for a walk in the middle of the day to breathe some fresh air or take a nap if I’m tired. I hate commuting two hours in ungodly traffic to do something I could as well do at home with today’s technology. In the end, my contribution to society would be higher if I were happier and able to devote my time to the causes I truly care about instead of my job.

  88. John Smith*

    I had exactly the same problem. I lucked out because I was in a union and made a super wage and could bounce from job to job. Plus I could work the system with unemployment 6 months a year.
    I doubt the majority of these people even know what we feel. I can remember a job I had and could not quit and get unemployment. We are talking short term construction jobs, so the layoff was just days away. I usually took 2 out of 5 days off, but you can only do that so much before they fire you. I could not miss work for a whole week before the job was finished and I would be laid off.
    Finally got laid off and drove all the way home screaming as loud as I could.
    Finally one day I had to see a shrink for unemployment benefit that would pay for a class I wanted to take.
    I told the shrink all about it. And how it was ruining my life, describing in detail what I mentioned above and that it had been going on for 20 years.
    Now this was a one time visit, but what she said to me turned my life around.
    She asked me this “Why were you smiling during your entire narrative about your life being ruined by your inability to work?”
    That ended the session.
    I realized after some soul searching why I was smiling.
    I was rebelling and proud of what I did.
    Then I realized at 40 years old, the only one I was hurting by rebelling was myself.
    It took a couple years of thinking about that but gradually as I understood myself, my life changed and I gradually came to like my work. Now at 68 and retired, I miss it.
    I tell you this not because I think you are rebelling but to tell you there is hope. You just need the right answers. And perhaps someone objective you can talk to.

  89. Bob Bobson*

    I think it’s perfectly normal for people who are highly creative, intelligent or free-spirited to not be happy about the expectation that we should work 8 to 5. It’s an absolutely crazy and idiotic idea, and stems from a time where people were expendable and had no power over their situations. Today people have more freedom to pursue whatever lifestyle they want, which is probably why the poster is taking the time to question the foundations of work.

    I think the solution to this problem differs from person to person, but here are some alternate paths:
    – Freelance or start your own business (perhaps in your free time and allow it to grow organically).
    – Turn your hobby into your profession.
    – Minimize expenses, maximize savings and try to retire early.
    – Figure out creative ways to grow your career while still doing the bare minimum.
    – Get a job that requires you to do no work and allows you to use your computer during work hours.

    If the poster lives in the US then I can definitely understand the frustration. The work culture and lack of proper benefits and respect are absolutely insane in the US. America is probably more than a decade behind the rest of the western world in terms of treating workers well, so working under such conditions would be enough to drive anyone crazy. Maybe moving to a different city or even country would be a solution as well.

    Best of luck

  90. lee*

    You are completely normal, work is for indoctrinated fools who are shallow, dull and cowardly. Pursue your passions, interests and hobbies and if possible earn from them, i do. I gave up employment and the pursuit of other peoples ‘life goal’ ideologies years ago and have since led a much, much happier albeit quieter and poorer existence. Im not as fit as when working, lots of time to sit on my arse doing bits, but i have happily traded a few kilos of flab for years of time to discover my own true self and unlearn most of the day to day societal nonsense installed upon me at school. Do yourself a favour, throw the work wear and live basic until you know what you want.
    when i worked as a nurse most of the old men i spoke to all said the same 3 things; 1. Never get married 2. Never have kids and 3. Don’t waste your life working. I worked as a nurse for just under 7 years and i heard those 3 comments most days when in conversation.

  91. lee*

    You are completely normal, work is for indoctrinated fools who are shallow, dull and cowardly. Pursue your passions, interests and hobbies and if possible earn from them, i do. I gave up employment and the pursuit of other peoples ‘life goal’ ideologies years ago and have since led a much, much happier albeit quieter and poorer existence. Im not as fit as when working, lots of time to sit on my arse doing bits, but i have happily traded a few kilos of flab for years of time to discover my own true self and unlearn most of the day to day societal nonsense installed upon me at school. Do yourself a favour, throw the work wear, mobile phone and car keys away and live basic until you know what you want.
    when i worked as a nurse most of the old men i spoke to all said the same 3 things; 1. Never get married 2. Never have kids and 3. Don’t waste your life working. I worked as a nurse for just under 7 years and i heard those 3 comments most days when in conversation.
    most people on here may suggest your nuts or that you should seek advice. Don’t, one day soon enough they will be the sad, obsolete, tools sat next to an nhs hospital bed wishing they could do it all over.

  92. John D.*

    Wow, except for the part about preferring to be homeless. I could’ve written this word for word. I sometimes feel like I’m all alone in my sentiment. I just cannot think of any type of work that would inspire me. And like the guy who sent the letter, I’ve been this way since childhood. I too am in my late 30s. I used to be a web designer at first employed then freelance but lost my passion for it and don’t know what to transition to next. I was always known as a very bright kid by my school teachers who just didn’t apply himself. I even was enrolled in a gifted program as young as elementary school. Yet I was a “C” student all the way through college as I always did the bare minimum short of outright failing and rarely above and beyond that unless it was a class I found so interesting that I couldn’t help but do well. Professional I’ve been the same way. Never a hard workers. Late to work, often early to clock out or at least as much as I could get away with without getting in trouble. Didn’t care to socialize much with coworkers beyond what was necessary. Just got there, did my job but kept an eye on the clock all day and couldn’t wait to bolt out at 5:30. Even if it wasn’t stressful. I just hated feeling “stuck” somewhere being told what to do. Around 2009, I quit my job. I had a large nest egg stashed away and I went on a backpacking trip exploring South America for months. To this day it was the happiest time of my life and upon returning could never quite kick myself back into gear. After that I bounced around in freelance, did odd jobs, tried some career changes that didn’t work out. And at this point my resume looks pretty unimpressive. But financially I’m at the point where I have to now do something and get serious. I feel I had so much potential but never the energy. Whatever issue plagues that guy that wrote the letter also seems to effect me. I do suffer from acute depression from time to time, but I am functional and am socially normal as in I have friends of wide backgrounds, male and female who enjoy my company. I’m not a misanthrope who hates the world. I don’t lack interests. In fact I find so many things interesting that it can be hard to concentrate. I just have a very difficult time with sustained focus and having to work.

  93. Musiclady420*

    I have similar experiences at work. I just chalk it up to social anxiety. I’m a massage therapist and the emotional side of this job is hard. You end up caring so much for clients. So, when you get that one bad review it just devastates me for days. Other times I have to hear about clients life issues which can be really depressing. And don’t get me started on my coworkers. I hear them talking behind others backs all the time. I use to try to talk to them and confront them but I have gotten to the point where if you can’t beat me join em.
    But in the end through the pain, sweat, and tears I know that I make a difference in someone’s life. So, I have stuck with it for a decade now. I still love it but end up waking up everyday not wanting to go to work. Something my boss will never understand. She got made at me one day for saying I didn’t want to be there. But it had nothing to do with her or the company. I can’t really explain it either. But grass isn’t always greener on the no work side.

  94. Cathy J.*

    I hate work too–all work. I am not sure if it is a therapy issue. I think there are honestly some people who hate routine more than others and need to be creative and free. Without the means to do so, we are stuck. It’s like being a serf. I appreciate your honesty in bringing this issue to the forefront.

  95. CKP*

    The correspondent should consider getting a psychological “inventory” (set of tests) done for conditions like ADD, ADHD, and related. SERIOUSLY … it saved my life! I’m very similar. My story:

    Personally, I have experienced quite similar emotions regarding work — restlessness, anger, frustration, resentment. And I have experienced them in similarly unnecessary or irrational situations or for only poorly founded reasons or no reason at all. I would, at the time, describe the experience that bugged me, as something like having to go in to the same location every day, or having to get up too early or too regularly, or having to be nice to people whom I thought of as only “normal” but not “excellent” (and of course, some of whom I thought of as genuine idiots), or having to do pointless make-work just to prove my worth, or having to be told what to do rather than being allowed to run the whole show and tell others what to do. And yet, those SAME emotions did NOT arise in settings which have the same requirements but which are not work-oriented. Going to a regular volunteer setting, or going to a school or graduate university program, was always enjoyable for me. I got up early, got to the classroom on time, acted nice to all the people, did a lot more of getting told what to do than doing the telling to others, did plenty of exercises and chores that would never make the company any profit but were only make-work so I could prove I could do it (that’s what a school test IS!), and I didn’t mind having to be nice to the less-than-excellent (or even to the idiots!), as long as it was at school or church or on my soccer team, but not if it was at work! So, logically speaking, I could only conclude that the things which bugged me were actually NOT those things which I SAID were the problem. It was in fact not the regularity, or the other people, or any other excuse, that got me frustrated or angry at workplaces.

    Nevertheless, I experienced anger and frustration, sometimes fear or dread, types of panic and aggression that seemed adrenalin-related, at workplaces, consistently, throughout my life, whenever I “had to” go to one. I had that experience as early as nine years old, just going to my dad’s office to watch him make the news (he’s a journalist). It was “cool” to be involved in big stuff — he would phone the governor, for example, or he would know how the sports game went before the rest of the country knew. It should have been appealing. But I hated it. I can’t pin-point any negative single (or multiple) childhood incident(s) which poisoned my workplace experiences … nothing was really so dreadfully that it traumatized me. I didn’t get abused; I didn’t miss out on a major experience like a school play or a sports event or getting an award or going to a dance merely because I had to attend work instead. There’s nothing inherently negative about my work experiences, in an absolute and objective way, that anyone else on the planet hasn’t also experienced and been able to deal with. But me? I couldn’t deal with it. It would get worse and worse.

    One feeling was, that there was literally no time. When I had a regular job, I didn’t really have time to eat, sleep, use the toilet, bathe. I was always running from bedroom to workplace and back. I’d go to bed early enough in order to be able to get up at 6:30 am, and right at 6:30 am my entire day (so it seemed) was dedicated to the necessities of work. There was rapid morning panicked preparing for it; then rapid morning panicked rushing to it; then rapid morning panicked working at it; then no time off eat at the desk rapid noontime panicked meal; then rapid afternoon panicked working more at work; then rapid evening panicked rushing from work to home; then rapid evening panicked rushing to bed, to be in bed soon enough to be able to get up at 6:30 am the next day. I heard of workmates who had after-work plans with their spouses or children. I would wonder, “When?” Or they’d ask me to a movie. Or, “What did you have for lunch?” I never knew. “I was too busy to have lunch” was the usual response. “I haven’t seen a movie in years.” They’d ask about the weekend. I’d respond that I almost got about half of my errands done (dry-cleaning, car repair, repaired or new shoes, paid the rent, finished the laundry, vacuumed once, bought three packets of deli meat plus mustard and a loaf of bread, all of it in service of getting me TO the workplace) and yet I didn’t have any free time on the weekend to do anything else. I certainly didn’t go to a movie. When? The question was always, “When?” did you DO something other than WORK? I couldn’t figure out how they met a potential spouse, much less had time off for sex and thereby procreation of children, I didn’t ever get to any social event, because I HAD TO WORK INSTEAD. Why didn’t THEIR work prevent THEM from having lives, like it did to me?

    The way I sometimes described it, was that in the modern work world, I simply never got a chance to re-charge. If I worked on Monday all day, then I felt I needed all day Tuesday and most of Wednesday to re-charge, before going back to work for Thursday. So, if I had to string Monday AND Tuesday together working before re-charging, then I would need THREE OR FOUR days of an extra-long weekend in order to re-charge. I didn’t claim this was a legitimate demand for me to make of my employer, no, of course not! I certainly didn’t feel entitled to having that much time off simply to re-charge (whatever that meant at the time!). I was not claiming I had a right to it; I just wanted to say that this was simply how I felt, and I couldn’t help it, and I’m sorry. If I had to work a full work-week, five days in a row, then by the time Friday came around, the amount of re-charge time that I felt I needed was literally months off. Either I didn’t have enough time in a day to both (a) work and (b) get ready for work, or I needed to recharge. Those were the ways that I described it. I felt I’d go postal.

    By “go postal” I do mean, that I felt like killing people. I never went so far as to act violent to workmates or at the workplace. That seemed too selfish. I always knew that my experiences were my own to deal with, and if I had some negative responses, well, that was indeed my problem and it would be extremely inappropriate, selfish, to act out those responses on people who actually had very little to do with forcing those experiences onto me. I knew I was the odd man out, not them. They weren’t to blame. So, THANK GOODNESS! I never actually harmed anyone. I’m glad (now, looking back) for all the occasions when an employer stepped in and got rid of me, long before I went so far off the rails that I might have acted violently, wrongly. I did once in my life purchase a fire-arm, kind of “impulse” purchase at a gun show which I had attended with friends. At the time, I lived in a region where personal fire-arms were well within the norm; and I had become interested in hunting, because I like the outdoors. I wasn’t really thinking what I would do with the gun; I was thinking that this put me one more step closer to hiking in the woods with my buddies, and any potential target to aim at in reality was not considered, rather was simply an abstract bull’s-eye on a piece of paper, in my mind. But soon, having that fire-arm around in my house, locked up as it was supposed to be, I was oddly beginning to have fantasies of using it, either on workplaces (just, random workplaces, you know, go in to a place with offices and cubicles and people from the movie “Office Space”) or … this also really scared me … on myself. I returned the gun promptly. (The salesman was excellent about it — “We often get people who are excited at the gun show but then realize the awesome responsibility once they’ve had it in the house for a few nights,” he explained. He did not charge me any extra money, returned it all, although I now realize that he must have lost some revenue for the fact that inventory once “new” then had to be re-sold only as “used once.” Thank you, to him, for helping save my life!)

    I’m not lazy. I don’t cop a bad attitude (though I do HAVE one, it’s an attitude that I did NOT choose! and I hide it, I don’t impose it on others, as best I can). I have a bachelors from an excellent undergrad school, two graduate degrees from Ivy-caliber institutions, I have no criminal record, I don’t have any type of drug addictions, I’m relatively healthy, I exercise almost daily, I have hobbies like music and drawing, I bathe regularly and wear mainstream clothing, I have no tattoos or piercings and don’t really want any, my hair style (what little of it is left) is typical very-short and male-pattern-baldness, I’m of a mainstream ethnic (White) appearance, I have no present family to support (never had wife or children) and I don’t have bad relationships with my elders in my family or friendships, I get along well with people, I have been in my male friends’ weddings and as escort to my female friends’ wedding parties, I’m a OK and NORMAL seeming guy! And my educational level and ability to contribute to a workplace OUGHT to make me into an excellent employment prospect. But every eighteen months something happens at work: “You’re not happy here. Don’t you think this isn’t working out?” Sometimes I make the company very surprisingly profitable, do some kind of award-worthy work, get a free trip to a resort, something like that, right before I get fired. But, “let go” happens again and again.

    I tried various therapies, various ways of making work more tolerable (“make a game of it”; work with the right kind of people; work in a cause that you care about; get outdoor work; get indoor work; get piece-work for hire rather than salaried regular-location work; get higher degrees; do manual labor; etc. etc.). I genuinely WANTED to improve my workplace attitude (it was ruining my performance, thus ruining my future prospects) and I genuinely TRIED to improve my demeanor, outlook, autonomous responses. Sometimes I just felt I was a bad actor surrounded by people who were simply better at hiding their frustrations. But then I’d talk to normal-level co-workers and find out that their feelings were MUCH less negative than mine: “No, I mean, I’d rather be reading a book at the beach, sure, but I get to do cool stuff, and the money pays for a great house, and ya know, it’s WHAT YA DO and I can hack it” was usually their response. Mine? “I’d rather be in combat.” (And I meant it literally, though I’ve been rejected due to asthma and a heart murmur by any armed forces I tried to join.) I tried various sorts of advice and career-searches from counselors, churches, synagogues, friends, therapists, in hopes of finding out what kind of work I would “really like” — “What Color is your Parachute,” Myers-Briggs personality-type testing, etc. etc.. None of it helped, and none of it told me what was “wrong” with me. The only diagnosis could be, that my inevitable, consistent, but unfounded responses to work, are either utterly bizarre, or are caused by an INTERNAL CONDITION of some sort that I have no control over.

    For me, a diagnosis of adult-onset ADHD was the BEGINNING of some degree of resolution to these feelings. That was about eight years ago, when I was in my early 40s, and I’m only now (nearing my 50th birthday) becoming comfortable with doing stuff for money when it’s stuff that I “have to” do. The solutions have not been in the realm of finding better or more amenable work. Rather, they are in the realm of controlling my day-to-day habits. Simple things like less sugar, more exercise, more self-awareness of the amount of time that I can accidentally waste on hyper-focusing on pointless projects, awareness that my instinctive responses will be awry to certain situations, and an enumeration of the situations so that I can somehow plan ahead for those awry responses: all these things are kind-of helpful. I’m not a success story, because I don’t have a workplace or an income. But I am a success story, because I am not killing someone, neither my co-workers nor myself. I take pills (anti-depressants, and stimulants typical of ADHD therapy), I see counselors and doctors, I continually am working on it. I’m a lawyer in two States and I have friends and law-school classmates who are financially very successful. I can’t afford dinner. My family puts me up in spare bedrooms. But I won’t buy another gun! That’s a first step.

    That’s all I can offer. The road is unhappy, mostly; but it is happier WITH rather than WITHOUT a diagnosis. To all of you who hate life because work takes away all your life and prevents you from having a life, I say, get a diagnosis. You may have ADD, ADHD, or something similar.

    1. PJM*

      I don’t want to diminish your experience but the mainstream psychiatric profession are quite clear…there is no adult-onset ADHD as the condition is thought to be a neuro-dvelopmental disorder. Some newer research has looked at extending the age horizon of ADHD by renaming the disorder as one of executive functioning but I know of no research which sees ADHD-onset as occurring after the early 20s age range. I would seriously think back to your earlier years to see if there was a kernel of dysfunction already present. I know I’m sounding like I don’t believe you or that I’m discounting your diagnosis but I think you showed real insight by suggesting the writer’s problems might be ADHD.
      I have the same issues and was finally diagnosed recently at 48. However I can point to very early experiences that my sister confirmed independently as well as all the usual school report cards. I would avoid using the words adult-onset to anyone with an ADHD diagnosis as they will question this as I have done. Good luck to you all the same (after you’ve calmed down that is!!).

      1. CKP*

        Hey, PJM, thanks for that comment. I know it’s been a very long time since I made the post (March) and fairly long since you replied (November) but I wanted to say, I didn’t miss it! You’re right with the warning about my terminology — “adult-onset” generally shouldn’t go along with “ADHD.” I’d probably want to re-write that sentence to make the adjectives more accurate and to use some of them as adverbs or something. Glad you were looking out for me, and, your suggestion is taken to heart. :)

        1. CKP*

          Hahaha except it wasn’t March and November, it was October and December … hoo boy! Sorry. I had put the wrong months in there just as place-holders and had intended to look up the correct months before hitting the “submit” button, but doh! then I forgot. Oops. :)

  96. Dweezel*

    Talking therapy and/or antidepressants might help you, but there’s no guarantee they’ll work (at least long term), because I think your hatred of work is so deeply entrenched that I think the only thing that will fix it for good is getting a job you actually enjoy and are good at. (And if you’re anything like me, you’ll want a job that actually means something. Don’t ask me what sort of job that would be, because I don’t know). Trouble is, those sorts of jobs are few and far between, and even then you always have to work with a certain percentage of idiots in your workplace.
    FWIW I’d say it’s normal to hate work — I mean if housing and food were free, how many people would cho0se to work? Only those who actually enjoy their work, which according to an imaginary poll I conducted a minute ago constitutes just 0.004% of the working population. I read once about a couple who won millions on the lottery and carried on working at McDonald’s. Where was their imagination or sense of adventure? If I’d won that much money, I’d buy a cottage in the country, then I’d travel the world for a year or so. But they decided they wanted to carry on flipping burgers. The mind boggles.
    I don’t work and am homeless. I built myself a shelter in the woods, because I got so sick of all the annoyances of flat living (doors slamming, people stomping around like elephants, people arguing, babies crying, loud music, unpleasant neighbours, police sirens, etc) and I don’t work because I’m fortunate enough (if “fortunate” is the right word) to be on a disability benefit that doesn’t require me to look for work. I’m not lazy, as people may assume, though. In fact, when I have had jobs (and I’ve had several and worked all sorts of antisocial shifts), it used to annoy me how lazy and incompetent so many of my coworkers and managers were (look up “the Peter principle” in relation to incompetent managers) – doing the bare minimum to keep their job. What I hated most about work was the people I had to work with. I can put up with mind-numbingly boring work if I have to, but bullying coworkers/managers are going to severely affect your mental health.
    I get free food from churches and can shower there too. Sometimes I even pick food out of bins behind supermarkets (if the bins aren’t locked, that is) – and the food hasn’t made me ill once.
    I can’t say I’m happier than you though. I have far fewer stresses and strains, but I still have them. I often find life (and every job I’ve ever done) repetitive and dull. I find many people boring, stupid, selfish & rude. In fact, other people annoy me so much they ruin my day on a regular basis. It’s like they were put on this earth to ruin my day. I once saw someone wearing a T-shirt that read: “You’re the reason I take drugs.” I can empathize with that, even though I don’t take drugs myself. I take antidepressants, but they don’t make me happy. They’ve just stopped me from killing myself. Well, so far anyway. I often get suicidal thoughts, though, because this world can be a very grim place at times. FWIW, I think what you have goes far deeper than just hating work. I’d venture that you have a very severe case of existential angst.

  97. Heartweaver*

    I could have been the one writing this letter, you are not alone. On the few jobs I had with my life, I broke down multiple times, once even tried to walk myself onto oncoming traffic and jump off a window, but stopped myself in the nick of time. I feel useless and like a liability to my family, and I look on at enthusiastic people, wondering how they get the drive to keep working hard, especially without results. I just have no drive and endurance at all, any little difficulty or failure drives me to suicide.

    Now all I ask for is a tolerable job that lasts until retirement that is able to support me and enable me to save for employment. Jobs are tailored to benefit the employer/organisation more than the employee, hence I do not believe in perfect job for everyone, just tolerable. Freelancing and being your own boss is many times harder than being an employee. My heart goes out for you, and I hope you will be able to solve this soon.

  98. Alsohateit*

    I hate work too. I got a job where I have a lot of time off (teaching) because I liked doing it when I first started after doing a whole bunch of soul crushing mcjobs. I think a big part of the reason I liked it at first is because I felt like I was actually doing something useful instead of pointless crap.

    Then I realized

    a. Americans HATE teachers (even college).

    b. That it’s just like the mcjobs, going to a stupid place I don’t want to be. I’m not depressed (got over that), but I always leave the house at the last minute and leave the job at the first possible second. I hate doing it and wish I could just have an eternal summer vacation.

  99. L*

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this guy. I think what’s wrong is society’s view on how life should be lived: go to college, get a “good job,” have kids, raise family, die. Is this how ppl are meant to live? No, everyone wants freedom. The structured 9-5 is soul-killing, and I don’t know anyone who LOVES that. I recommend reading The Minimalists’ website — changed my life. Cut your spendings, live frugally, get rid of your stuff, do things that mean something to you: your hobbies, spending time with people in your life. Once you cut the spendings, maybe you realize you can live on just a part time job that although doesn’t pay as much, but gives you enough to live on less than before.

  100. Bettypearl*

    I haven’t read all 500-odd comments, but of the ones I’ve read, I’m surprised that most seem to think that there is indeed something ‘wrong’ with this person. For me, the clue to the problem is in the comment about books he’d rather be reading/writing. I think this maybe a pointer to what the person would really love doing. If this person is an artist at heart, it’s no surprise that office work or any other work that isn’t what his soul really wants to do would make him feel and behave in this way. I know this from personal experience. The fact that someone hates with a passion the office environment, where we are forced to adopt a work persona, be inauthentic, and perform tasks that have no meaning for us for me is a sign of emotional health, not sickness! I think the best therapy for this person would be to try and figure out what has true value and meaning for him spiritually and creatively, and to try out ways of earning money in this way. When I was working in an office, I found that it became much more bearable when I was also actively pursuing my writing outside the 9 to 5.

    1. CKP*

      Thanks, Bettypearl, I utterly agree — if a person has an artistic temperament (define it, reasonably, but however you need to define it in this context) then many things about usual workplaces will grind her or his soul to death. I think our current mainstream work culture (typical Western urbanized office middle-management work culture, I mean) is so negative toward that temperament that it doesn’t even admit to its existence as a stumbling block. Often the only solace or therapy a person with that temperament can find, is that people will suggest a change to another mainstream-work-culture position and location, and will probably overtly also suggest greater effort. Try harder, says the Protestant Work Ethic and the Dilbert Cubicle Farm, try even harder and you’ll be happy just like us. More trying! Harder trying! Put in more more MORE effort! Thus, even a fair DIAGNOSIS is sometimes impossible to retrieve, secreted as it is, far away in hiding, much less can the sufferer also get the therapy, interventions, changes, cure she or he so desperately seeks.

  101. RegularAAMPoster-InNewField*

    It’s one year later and I found this while starting a new job. I comment regularly on here (or did, when I had more time) under a specific user name, but that name no longer applies since I left that profession this year and am in an entirely different industry, but performing the same role (if that makes sense).

    The honesty and the need for help in the OP’s comments really appealed to me. It feels true to my situation as well, and it helped me realize that when I comment(ed) under my prior user name, I was reinforcing certain thoughts and values about work that are thought to be applicable to everyone, but which in reality I don’t really hold. If I’m honest with myself, I can concur that I’ve always hated and feared working and felt likewise about school, starting with primary school and continuing through to college. I stopped at a bachelor’s degree and am the only Gen-Xer in my family to have done so. We are the first generation (and at present, looking like the only generation, sadly — despite each experiencing 2-3 recessions during our work lives, we are neither heading into our final earning ramp-up to retirement nor starting out in a severe recession like the groups preceding and proceeding us have) to have been both raised and experienced adulthood in the middle class, and for all of my cousins, that meant getting professional degrees. There are lots of master’s of science and JDs among those cousins (also mostly female) and my eldest cousin is a pediatric surgeon, although she’s always been a “mega-achiever”, that I’ve always been viewed as the “family slacker” to such an intense degree that my extended family dismissed me as a “loser” until I began working with high-end financial companies. Their 180-degree attitude change was very telling and I daresay it contributed to my distaste for the way American culture demands that people identify themselves by what they do to earn their paychecks.

    In my case, the hatred and fear of work and school have specific, tangible causes. This doesn’t mean I have found satisfactory resolutions for the feelings or their physical manifestations, but it helps ever so slightly to know that I am not losing my mind or the only person in the world to have experienced them. I grew up in a violent broken home and was beaten and emotionally abused as a child. The parent who did this has personally dropped out of the middle class because their severe, untreated mental illness also caused them to rack up massive amounts of debt. The only happy time I can remember during my childhood was when I lived with one of my grandparents and the others visited. My grandparents grew up poor and retired solidly in the working class but never wanted for anything. Their life experiences helped me develop the work ethic that prevents me from saying “Screw it” and walking out, but that’s not always a good thing. The type of home that I grew up in caused me to beat myself up and think myself never good enough. The abusive parent, as well as several members of the extended family who had similar mentalities about child-rearing always said that the girl children of the families should never be praised or told they had done well. If at all possible, they said — and bear in mind, they said this to your face — the girl children should have praise withheld and be pushed to accomplish as much as possible with no positive reinforcement, lest they develop an “ego.” The result, in my case, is that I feel myself to be capable of little other than screwing it up, and because of the way the violent upbringing shaped me psychologically, I am always waiting for “the other shoe to drop” so to speak.

    My official diagnoses, which took decades to get right, are PTSD and ADHD. Currently, I am not in treatment nor do I have access to the correct medications (in my case, an ADHD med and an anti-anxiety drug that should not be used every day). The reason for this is simple: few therapists, even in 2016, truly understand childhood-induced PTSD, particularly when it’s caused by the specific ways I was abused. My most recent therapist told me many of the same damaging things that my abuser and other relatives told me — to not stand out, to not get a big head, and essentially, to never stand up for myself — and my taing this “advice,” if it could even be called that, resulted in my making myself an attractive target for bullying at my most recent job in my former field. Many other promising mid-career women and a not-insignificant number of men were also bullied out at that time. It helped me feel less alone and messed-up but only just. I was out of work for nearly half a year before finding my current opportunity and upon returning to work, found my mental and physical health to have declined significantly since the last time I started a new job. PTSD can induce physical symptoms, especially if you’ve had it since before you even started grade school, like I did, and when you are constantly re-exposed to traumas like I was — I was specifically a target of bullying by other adults throughout school and this continued at nearly every job, career-track and not, which had the effect of worsening the PTSD and as a consequence, its physical manifestations. Currently, I suffer at least one panic attack a day, have all but stopped eating, and sleep very little. I also have severe physical pain and feel suicidal pretty consistently. I have mentioned to my spouse many times in this week alone that life is not worth living and I do feel hopeless at many points about the future because I am so doubtful that I will ever be able to find suitable help and a job I can stand.

    For my spouse and I, the only thing that really helps rid us of that “life is not worth living” feeling (I am fortunate to have married someone with a near-identical childhood trauma history; not that it’s lucky to have such a childhood, but it’s lucky for both of us that we have a partner who so completely “gets it”) is to make plans for getting away from the typical lifestyle of middle-aged adulthood success. We are planning on our own business and have accumulated the experience over our respective working lives to succeed. We have also identified someone in our community with a similar childhood trauma experience who is helping us with a referral to a doctor. I’m not sure any of this would’ve even been possible, were we not living in a large global city. When we lived outside of it, our health and circumstances suffered because we simply did not have access to the resources.

    In closing, I can relate to the OP 1000% percent, especially in terms of:
    * Feeling no accomplishment from career.
    * Feeling like I’m doing just enough to “get by” (even if it’s not objectively true).
    * Feeling like I’d be happier without work in my life. and like there will never be a job out there for me that is anything less than utterly misery inducing.
    * Feeling alienated from human beings and like I am going to do something dramatic and horrible (again, even if it’s not objectively true).

    I briefly had a therapist who was incredibly helpful when I was in junior high. He unfortunately died (as I said, my life has been challenging), but prior to that, he said “It’s not that you’re crazy, even though you’ve been trained by everyone and every thing in your life to believe otherwise. It’s that you’re surrounded by crazy people who push their crazy values, thoughts, and feelings onto you.” I’m not sure if this will help the OP or not but I hope it helps someone out there to feel less alone.

  102. RegularAAMPoster-InNewField*

    p.s. Having to get up extra early this morning thanks to a doofus co-worker who is seriously trying to boss around women 10 yrs his senior etc. I wanted to add that you would never guess I feel this way if you worked with me. I would by now be very successful at lying through my teeth about the entire thing. One person at my work knows but only because I know them through a shared bad experience in a previous job. And this person wouldn’t admit such feelings either, for similar reasons. Wouldn’t it be great if more people could discuss this? Yes, the social stigma alone is definitely harmful, and while those with attitudes like “You should be GRATEFUL for a job harrumph harrumph BOOTRSTRAPS” are finally beginning to fall out of favor in the U.S. I am afraid it’ll take a while for the feeling to “trickle up” to the owning class which includes politicians, etc.

  103. DontDownvote*

    TL:DR comments:

    Hate to put it this way but this is the exact reason why we put people on PIP, layoffs or firing. There are literally thousands who would kill for a full time job.

  104. RegularAAMPoster-InNewField*

    Many managers are narcissists and sociopaths on power trips. These personality types are most likely to respond to people with severe mental and physical illnesses with remarks like yours. Speaking only for myself, I consider it a blessing and a gift to be fired from a job filled with such people. In fact, I’m hoping to be fired from my current job because it, and my records of severe mental and physical illness will be more than enough to get me out of work for good and on SSDI. And even if not, I have other options that don’t require I kowtow to narcissists and sociopaths. Your remarks merely make me laugh and serve as further illustration of why people find work life ruining.

  105. RegularAAMPoster-InNewField*

    I also find it fascinating that Mr. “Don’tDownvote” himself chose a handle suggesting HE be exempted from criticism of any kind, and made it clear from the outset that he is above reading the OP’s letter, AAM’s response, or any of the comments — so eager is he to rush right in and offer the precise hackneyed and useless response that has ALREADY BEEN SHOT DOWN on this page MULTIPLE TIMES, chiefly because it bears NO RELEVANCE to the problem or the solution. The only thing it, and similar glib cheers for authoritarian oligarchy, has achieved over the past century is the flushing of the U.S. economy down the toilet.

    My comment from yesterday is an example of what I sound like when I’m not faring well. I chose to comment here and show that side of myself to the world in the hopes of helping others to feel less strange, isolated, or “screwed up.” I am sure that what pains the “Mr. Don’tDownvotes” is of the world is the very fact that a large percentage of workers feel exactly like me and the original poster. And more importantly, he can’t stop us from feeling as we do no matter how many internet threats he throws down.

  106. Stephanie*


    I feel the same way and I am struggling each and everyday… Please guys help me!
    I seriously need it.. Been missing work days a lot and my manager is starting to wonder the cause..

  107. tim*

    There is nothing wrong with you.

    Just because work is a requirement to make money, doesn’t mean it is what you want to do with your existence.

  108. John doe*

    I feel the same EXACT way it’s so bad when I die I think to My self at least I won’t have to work anymore it’s messed up I wonder if it’s all the chemicals in the food and water

  109. Tess*

    I have the same problem. I hate work. But also I don’t think people who follow the stream and just work because hey you have to and everybody does it are “normal”. Now who are the ones in need of therapy? Years and years of YOUR life thrown away by doing something you dont want to do. Imagine what change we could make if we all could do something we are good at and change the world by following are heart and using our talents. It makes me so sad that we are all so tangled up and trapped in this world of work if you will. :( I am thinking about going away for a little on a retreat

  110. AlexR*

    I can relate to this, people always say to find something you like. What if you don’t like anything?

    1. Jenny Moreno*

      Try helping other people. Use your job as means to help other people. The greatest reward you can get is not from money or even doing something “you like”. The greatest reward is the satisfaction and sense of fulfillment you get when what you do makes a difference in someone’s life.

  111. Not hopeless but getting there*

    Wow!!! Did I write this? I don’t just relate to some of this, this is word for word my precise existence. I’ve tried to explain this to anyone who would listen over the decades. In over 20 years I’ve been in as many jobs, over 10 different industries (Finance, IT, Retail, Fitness, Music, etc.), multiple degrees, etc. all in an effort to find something I could “stand.” I’ve not only hated every job I’ve ever had, I’ve felt as if ‘they’ were tortuous captors forcing my into an abusive existence where any freedom, happiness, quality of life, etc. is given to me or taken from me at the sole discretion of my tormentors.
    To spend 8+ hours a day having your spirit crushed, to miss out on life, to buy a car, clothes, shelter, and gas with wages that enable you to go back tomorrow and relive this never ending nightmare, why? Forced to do something! Forced!
    As the world orbits, and your days get shorter, you are faced with the reality of finite time. You have a finite time in this reality. Sitting at a computer and faking enthusiasm about your co-workers weekend activities is how you wish to spend it?
    The hour to get ready. The hour to commute. The eight at work. The hour home. The six of sleep. The four to do laundry, dishes, eat, and bank. There are only three left if you are lucky. Your entire ‘life’ must be packed into Saturday and Sunday. ‘Life’ as in a vibrant, creative, challenging, engaging, productive, happy, and meaningful existence.
    Who among you, on your deathbed, will think back and say “if only I could have spent a few more hours away from loved ones in that cubicle?”
    Maybe it is as simple as finding the right fit. Find something I can stand. Find something that feels more like life than an abstract concept keeping me from life. I haven’t found it yet. What I do know is I’ll be up all night reading, pondering, and planning. Not in an effort to find the right fit. Not in an effort to make my life better. The sole purpose is to avoid sleeping because sleeping leads to waking. Waking leads to showering. Showering leads to dressing. Dressing leads to going to “work!”
    I was beginning to think I was alone in this pit of despair. Thank you so much for posting!

  112. O.G.*

    I graduated high school got a very high paying job at USAA bank, was a mortgage loan originator, then a mortgage loan officerthen I went to work for bank of America as loan originator, then I went to school , graduated. Became a lab tech, worked there for a bit, then went to school to be a chef, graduated, went to work at a restaurant, then a hotel , then I was a early childhood development teacher , then I worked at bail bonds as an agent ,then I worked at a pharmacy as an insurance verifyr , then I worked at a small loan company as the manager, then I got hired as a medical assistant for a urologist….then one day , I got hired at a place that I LOVE♡♡ thanks to my versitile resume, I was give a chance to become a tissue recovery technicianl/surgical tissue tech. The fact that I had medical experience & kitchen experience, me being a chef I know how to use a meat slicer. My job now consists of removing bone, ligament and skin tissue from (deceased donors) )using the exact blades & slicer. I love my job , I love my hours , I love my pay . Basically what I’m saying is, there’s hope my friend. No worries , but you do need to do your part professionally, as in. If you no longer wish to be at a certain job, give them their 2 weeks notice . Request an exit interview so that you can discuss why you are leaving , and make sure your on good terms. Ask your boss for a letter of recommendation, and of you may use them as reference. GOOD LUCK

  113. Chris*

    Well, you are not alone!
    It sounds normal to someone who has discovered the real truth of the system!
    Why do you work, to get money, if money does not sing to you that much why work!? Simple logic!
    I had/have the same problem but in a way I found a trick. Im an engineer and have been working in various fields of civil engineering for over 25 years. I hate scocializing with people, I hate meetings, I hate working, that is I hate having to bee somewhere from 9 to 5 or what ever. So here is the trick. Althought I hate everything about work, I love technology and science. I love to solve problems and find solutions and think about things and see conections. I love being an engineer. So, I started my own office. I only do very special projects, mostly stuff that went hopelessly wrong and then they call me to save it. I work from home, except when I have to on sight. I have a workphone thats on from 8 till 6 then I turn it off, I am reacheble by e.mail thought. I decide if I take a project or not. I am my own master! Thats what you should try doing, fing something you like doing, not work something you do when you dont work and make it your passion!
    It takes courage to try but it worth it.

  114. Chris*

    And please dont take any medication or stuff. Your completely normal!
    Your arguments are logical!
    Just find that thing that makes your heart sing, writing a book, reading a book, wrting book reviews, helping people, you named enought things, go for it!!

  115. Ed*

    Yep, work sucks!!
    It takes away your freedom and dignity for money and shit you dont want and need!!
    It makes you a slave to a society you hate.
    Welcome to the brainwasch!!! Were you not told as kid what your live is gonna be like, go to school, learn something, find a girl, get married , have kids, get a job, biuld a house, take a morgage, work hard to pay that morgage, wellcome to life dude!!!
    Dont you hate it? Yes you do, so do I.
    Get out of it, learn to be free, that is really free in your mind!
    How, thats what you have to find out for yourself, good luck!

  116. nkdover*

    The bottom line is this….if you want to eat and have a roof over your head–you work. I’m not saying that you need to find a career, forget career. We work in order to live. Very few people are always excited and happy about going to work. Real life often interferes with our entertainment. We pull up our big person undies and get on with it.

    The thing is this–WE CHOOSE OUR OWN ATTITUDE. You heard me. We can choose to face whatever is before us with a good attitude or we can choose to be miserable.

    1. Not A Real Black Person*

      If the entire point of all your activities is to be part of something greater than yourself, and keep up with the Joneses, than going to a place to do something you don’t like , or you’re not good at, or where you are treated like crap is not so bad because social approval is more important to you than your likes/dislikes.

    2. RegularAAMPoster-InNewField*

      The bottom line is this….if you want to eat and have a roof over your head–you work. I’m not saying that you need to find a career, forget career. We work in order to live. Very few people are always excited and happy about going to work. Real life often interferes with our entertainment. We pull up our big person undies and get on with it.

      Conversely, the reality of this specific discussion is that the OP/letter-writer is intimately AWARE of ALL of this. The hackneyed platitudes that struck you as the most helpful advice to provide under the circumstances are the very same platitudes EVERYONE (save, perhaps, for the tiny percentage of children raised exclusively by adults who have never worked, ever, for whatever reason) hears ad nauseam long before we’re legally of an age to earn even the most modest paycheck. And unless you are one of those recent young adults who has been spared exposure to these platitudes until right now, you are as aware of the nature of your “advice” as anyone on here. Thus, chances are good that you posted this for a personal ego boost, a way of saying “I’m superior to those lesser, negative thought-thinking mere humans commenting on AAM.”

      The thing is this–WE CHOOSE OUR OWN ATTITUDE. You heard me. We can choose to face whatever is before us with a good attitude or we can choose to be miserable.

      This is literally false. And the widespread habit some have of repeating it as if it were gospel is killing people every day. 1 in 6 adults walking the earth today have been sexually abused in childhood. A higher percentage still have been mercilessly physically and/or emotionally abused by one or more of their parents or other immediate family members. While I doubt this information makes much difference to the type of person participating in this discussion for a personal ego boost, I will nonetheless point out that the sustained, horrific childhood trauma to which I refer creates adults who lose decades of productive, happy life to the numerous effects of Complex PTSD, or C-PTSD.

      Sufferers of this condition are essentially going through life with a brain that has been totally hijacked and rewired by trauma, often irreparably. The mental health symptoms alone are antithetical to happiness and career success, to say nothing of the numerous physical syndromes and chronic pain dogging most sufferers of C-PTSD. The majority wind up on some type of disability for at least some portion of their lives, and many have thrown good money after bad for decades chasing cures that failed and seeing numerous “mental health professionals,” so-called, who choose to take the same route you did here, blaming the C-PTSD patients for their own trauma AND all of its ill effects, including inability to “choose our own attitude.” In fact, ESPECIALLY our inability to “choose our own attitude.” This cruel lie, that anyone can choose his/her attitude, is a chief reason for the rising suicide rates of the current era.

  117. Not A Real Black Person*

    Being unhappy is not always a choice. What a stupid belief.
    You heard me. Stupid.

    Attitude is not a choice. Attitude is a product of life experiences and personality. Personality cannot be changed for the most part.

    Not everyone likes the same things. There are situations some people would put up with that others would not.
    Suppression of one’s feelings all the time doesn’t make someone not miserable. Smiling all the time doesn’t make someone suddenly happy with themselves and others.

    Take your magical thinking out back and shoot it twice in the face.

    1. Dweezel*

      nkdover wrote: “The thing is this–WE CHOOSE OUR OWN ATTITUDE. You heard me. We can choose to face whatever is before us with a good attitude or we can choose to be miserable.”

      I’m assuming that you’ve never experienced long-term clinical depression, haven’t been bullied or osctracized for decades on end, and have never contemplated suicide. If you have the opposite of the Midas touch, where everything you touch turns to shit, then I think your attitude would be more nuanced.
      There are certain everyday things that you can choose to respond to in a certain way (e.g. someone snapping at you or being rude), but I think certain heavy-duty things like long-term emotional or physical abuse, PTSD, psychosis, etc are so extreme that the brain is overwhelmed and you lose the ability I think to think clearly or choose what to feel any more.
      Another thing I’ve heard people say, which is very similar to your comment, is that “No-one can make you feel anything, you CHOOSE how you respond to people.”
      Everyone has their breaking point. The point at which they can’t endure any more. If life keeps kicking you down over and over and over again, at some point you’re going to stop getting up, stop choosing to be happy and stop choosing to fight. That’s what clinical depression is. You feel overwhelmed and can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, you can’t see any point to anything and you just give up. Some people turn to drink or drugs. Others develop eating disorders. Others self harm. Some commit suicide, often after years of doing the other things.
      Like the old saying goes, walk a mile in someone’s shoes before judging them. (Or as I once heard a comedian say, altering it to: “Walk a mile in someone’s shoes and then you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.”)

      I saw a documentary last night on TV about ex-members of the SAS (British special forces) trying to adapt to civvy street on their return from Iraq. If anyone could handle life’s strains and stresses you’d expect it to be a member of the special forces, right? I mean they go through gruelling training where the whole point of the training is to select not just the physically strongest, but the mentally strongest. The SAS training weeds out the people who can’t push through the pain, cold, lack of sleep and prolonged interrogation. I saw an episode of “SAS: Are You Tough Enough?” where civilians go through (supposedly) the same training as real soliders going through the SAS selection process. At one point, one of the civilian candidates said to the instructor that he was so tired he couldn’t go on. The instructor replied “You’re not tired, you just think you are.” Of course the man was exhausted, but this sums up the whole idea of mind over matter and pushing through the pain. In another episode, the candidates had been told to run up a hill and back again carrying a heavy Bergen (rucksack). Once they got back, thinking it was over, they were told to do it again. They do this on purpose to see who has the mental strength to keep going when the end isn’t in sight. And after they got back the second time, cold, wet from the rain and exhausted, they were asked to recite the registration plate of the LandRover that was parked at the halfway point. Not only do they want people to endure all that pain and cold, they want people who can stay alert during the whole horrendous process and remember a registration plate. I’d struggle to remember a plate if well slept, fresh and alert, so that tells you the calibre of people they select. And yet even people of this calibre can crack under certain circumstances.

      One of the ex-SAS men being interviewed in the documentary said that several ex-members of the SAS who he’d known personally had committed suicide after leaving the army because they couldn’t handle what they’d been through and what they’d inflicted on others. That particular man, by his own account, had killed a young Iraqi lad while his unit was on a mission behind enemy lines to destroy a transmitter. He did it because it was a case of him or the lad, who was reaching for his AK47, but he still feels guilty about it.
      You could see the guilt etched on his face and he said that what made it even worse was coming home to his own son who was around the same age as the lad he’d killed.

      So as I said, everyone has their breaking point and I just hope it never happens to you.

  118. GR*

    Same. I can relate to this 100%.
    It sucks because I like my job, I must do it cos I need the money. But I hate working, with a passion. I currently live with my parents, but I need to help them out financially. I’m 23 years old have a college degree, but I hate working. I hate waking up to go to work and getting home awfully tired at 7pm, not being able to meet my friends, enjoy time with my parents, or do anything else because work drains me. I wish I could just work from home, so that I could manage my own time but unfortunately that’s not an option.

    I’m very miserable.

    1. RegularAAMPoster-InNewField*

      Wow, your comment took me back to the year I was 23: two years into the post-college working world, juggling 40+ hours a week across 2 part-time, in-house professional jobs with tons of freelance work, leaving one of my “worst-ever” exes to date a carbon copy of the jerk, and living in a large house with roommates who ran the gamut from “so clean and quiet, it’s like they don’t live here” to “filthy pig with Axis II personality disorder who’s intentionally chosen to put me in harm’s way.” At that time, I shared your sentiments for the most part but unlike you, decided that admitting such feelings to myself was the problem. The course 23-year-old me chose instead was the height of foolishness: throwing myself even harder into work and pretending I LOVED IT. Needless to say, this approach didn’t work out long-term — in fact, I could’ve been the poster child for the “why telling someone that they can choose to be happy when they’re not and can decide to love something that is painful, ill-fitting, or downright toxic is the WORST ADVICE EVER” movement. Especially once I broke down, which was bound to happen sooner than later. It always does, if your life’s philosophy is “I must lie to myself at all times, no matter the costs.”

      By the time you reach your late twenties, you may find you’ve settled into a routine, career track, and lifestyle you enjoy quite a bit. This is likelier to be true if you’re white, male, and working in a field that is in high demand, although by this stage of life, most people have adjusted to waking up earlier and finding ways to manage feeling tired while enjoying their free time. If you, like me, have delayed sleep-phase disorder, this is when you’ll discover that, for you, the tendency to want to hit the hay at 4 am and wake up at noon WASN’T the mere result of adolescence and its ensuing brain chemistry changes — although on the upside, this is the point at which you’ll likely also have more flexibility to choose jobs that allow later start times or more flexible schedules.

      Of course, you might hit 27, 28 years old and decide that working 40+ hours a week to make someone else richer is for the birds, and that’s when it gets really interesting, because it just may result in you switching to consulting, working for yourself, or embarking on an entirely new career. Worst-case, you discover the problem runs deeper — for example, you have a physical or mental condition causing the exhaustion, depression, etc. — and take steps to mitigate that, whatever those steps might be. Best of luck! You sound like you have a good head on your shoulders, and more importantly, are honest with yourself.

  119. Brittany*

    I feel the same way. I know this article is well over a year old but oh well. Im about to start a job and I just feel so nervous. I am bad at every job I have. I’ve been fired 4 times and my coworkers are so mean for no reason. I am not a some juvenile slacker, I honestly try my best and it’s never enough. I hate being told to work faster. Then sometimes when I go fast as I can, I make mistakes even more than I did going slow. Corporations are all the same with their unrealistic wants. They love their asshole customers but enjoy treatig their employees like shit.If my fiance wasn’t with me, I would live off the grid.

  120. Mary*

    No, there is nothing wrong with you i feel the same exact way. Every day i feel as if i rather die than have to go into my job. I have also said i rather live under a bridge then continue working at my job. Myself and one other person on my team are the only ones in the same state, the rest of my co-workers reside in two other states. My co-worker rarely comes to work so i am sitting there for 8 hours every day by myself and i can’t stand it. I cry almost every day. Unlike you i don’t mind working if i had a job that was more meaningful and was around others. I have put in so many resumes and still can’t find another job so i am very depress all the time. I tell my husband all the time how lucky he is and i wish i was him. I forgot to mention i work the worse shift ever 11:30am-8pm. When i was brought on i was advised i would work 6am-2:30pm but after a year it was taken away from me and given to my co-worker that never comes to work. Look at it this way, someone is worse off than you, if you work the morning shift that mean at least you have a life. I do not. I leave my house at 10:15am and do not return until 9pm so i feel like i only have 2 days out of seven to enjoy life which is causing me to fall into a deep depression.

  121. Jim*

    I’m in my thirties and been feeling the same way since I could remember. I started working at age 17 had good jobs. I have B.S in computer science got certificates did drafting and design and I.T Helpdesk no matter what i will eventaully grow tired of my job and fine another job getting raises i will always be on the same bar level of income its a routine over and over no matter where you work being controlled by the corprate life putting up with bosses waking up 6 7 8am having rules, I hate working. I heard it all even if you already graduated college or university people saying go to schoole get certificates and the money you can make if you do this and that. its all a mine game playing with your emotions putting me on the same hole wasting money on ongoing education to be in dept money you’ll never pay back or see. All my life everyone I new works and lives with stress regardless if your rich or poor. I will be on that same level no matter how hard I work as the years go by I will grow old and die for a corprate life. I work just enough to keep my job use less energy to enjoy my life with family, friends and passion for my hobbie. Most of us where not ment to be caged. I don’t believe anyone that says they really like working to me you’ve gone mad/crazy cause the corprate got to your head I will simply walk away. Life is beutiful and should be used with meaning not sitting behind a desk.

  122. Baited and switched*

    You mentioned you would rather be reading or writing, but then say that you spend your time at work texting and playing games.
    Why don’t you just spend your time at work reading and writing instead of playing games? You can read and write a book on your computer and still click over to excel. That way, you’re not wasting your time, but you’re actually doing something you like.
    You have so many comments on his thread that it is obvious you’re not alone in hating work.
    I found this site because I hate my job. I spent many months writing a novel at work. Also, it feels good to be doing my own thing while I’m on the clock, because it’s basically like giving the finger to my bosses who promised me one job, but then stuck me in a far less desirable position. I have had writers block for a month now though, and now I am completely miserable. Without the distraction of writing and dreaming up storylines at work, I am faced with the brutal misery of the reality that is my job. Hating your job can affect everything else in your life.

    Your post has actually inspired me to just keep writing, even if I don’t think it’s that good, because writing pure garbage is way better than actually doing my job. Thank you!

  123. Ladygigolo*

    Very well said! I sort of found a solution my being an escort. No boss and it doesn’t feel like work or boring. I have interesting conversations with different types of professional men and even a handful of celebrities. I love looking well dressed and made up. Im still not fully satisfied with my performance. I mean i get great reviews but iwork only a few days a week because im lazy and average 1k per week. I know i could be making alot more but im lazy. However this part time escorting for 1k a week is MUCH more tolerable for me than the slave trade labeled “employment “.

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