updates: disclosing PTSD, faking interest in a job, and more

Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. Disclosing PTSD at work (#2 at the link)

Alison kindly responded to my email privately with some extra info, and I thought I’d give an update. I followed her advice and let my supervisors know I’m dealing with PTSD due to complicated family issues. They were extremely understanding and immediately asked how they could help. I was given carte blanche to work from home full time if I want to (or whenever I want to) or get a private office with a closed door to muffle sound, set up with HR and FMLA and was encouraged to use it whenever I need it, and security and front desk staff were given a quiet heads up about screening calls and visitors for me. I didn’t disclose much information beyond that and wasn’t asked to. Other than that, work has proceeded as normal!

Thank you so much to everyone sending well wishes and letting me know I’m not alone. While it’s devastating to think so many of us have PTSD or similar experiences, it’s definitely healing to know there are others who understand! I appreciate the advice and think this is a huge step towards rebuilding my career.

2. Can I ask for more money for extending my notice period? (#4 at the link)

Thank you for answering my question. I thought about your response and you were right — I didn’t want to give my current employer more time. I’m leaving due to an unpleasant boss and career stagnation and I’m excited to get started with my new employer. My boss had the nerve to be surprised I could command a higher salary than I’m currently paid! Even though he has assigned me every high profile, high priority project that has come into our department for the year I’ve been here. Seriously clueless. Thanks for helping me through this transition, hearing your wisdom gave me the confidence to turn down extending my time and refusing to consider a counter offer.

3. I was planning to leave my job for grad school, but… (#3 at the link)

First, I wanted to say thank you for your sound advice back in 2020! I left for my master’s and completed it in 2021. That program opened the door for me to start my PhD at the same school, which I had been wanting to do ever since I finished college.

Best of all, I changed advisors from my master’s advisor to a new faculty member for my PhD. This new advisor is completely the opposite of academic research stereotypes. As a boss, they care about trainees having boundaries, privacy, and work-life balance. They don’t just pay lip service to, they actually do something about equity and inclusion of people from all backgrounds, but especially those who were historically excluded from academia. They also have supervised other trans students before and have had *ZERO* mistakes using my they/them pronouns since the day I told them.

Asking for that retention raise back in 2020 didn’t even hurt me like I was concerned it would, because my boss from industry is still happy to write me recommendations and I’ve been a reference for him a few times as well.

4. Should I fake interest in the job during an interview?

First off, thank you so much for answering my letter! It gave me a moment to step back and look at it from a different perspective. I generally consider myself an enthusiastic (see: energetic) person, so it really threw me for a loop.

I definitely agree my background in multiple disciplines spoke volumes. With my work experience I would be considered a generalist in my field rather than a specialist.

While I made the right decision in not pursuing those positions (and they not pursuing me!), I confess desperation probably had a bit to do with it.

But in cheesy good news, I landed my dream job! A company I was chasing for years reached out to me for an amazing position. I’m incredibly supported by my managers — and they in turn lean on me for work outside the typical straight and narrow. My generalist background has really helped me in this position and I couldn’t be more “interested.” :)

{ 14 comments… read them below }

  1. Zephy*

    It’s so wild to go back and read articles that were published right at the very end of the Before Times. I’m glad Grad School LW is thriving, I can’t imagine what their past two and a half years have been like.

  2. ferrina*

    LW 1, thanks so much for the update! Your letter hit home for me- I have also struggled with cPTSD from a traumatic childhood (mostly handled now, but still flares up under times of extreme stress). I’m so glad that you’ve found a workplace that supports your (mental) health care! You deserve to heal and be happy, and you are taking all the right steps! Wishing you all the best!

  3. EJane*

    Wow, that PTSD update is timely for me.

    My supervisor was just replaced with someone who reminds me very strongly of my own abusive parent, and communicates in a very similar way. Every time I’ve had a 1:1 meeting with her that’s involved any kind of feedback, I’ve been able to acknowledge and stay present during the meeting and stave off a panic attack until afterwards. My office is NOT sound-proof, but there are isolated corners, and I’ve absolutely left those meetings, huddled in a dark corner, and tried not to cry audibly on more than one occasion.

    I’m putting in for a transfer to a different team.

  4. Frankie Bergstein*

    Oh, the OP and the two commenters talking about cPTSD at work speaks straight to my heart — something I’ve struggled with and worked my career around for at least the last decade or so. A discord (or FB group or something) with folks working on professional issues who also have experience with PTSD would be like a dream come true for me!

    There are times when I’m in an emotional flashback but at work, or in work situations that are literally retraumatizing. I’ve dealt with them pretty well — my face and emotions are pretty disconnected where I look calm no matter how I feel. Still, as I take on management and leadership roles, a professional support group with a trauma lens would be a dogsend :)

    1. EJane*

      oh MAN i want to make a discord like that. I’m a mental health professional with PTSD (!!!!!!) so it’s EXTRA brutal.

      Allison, is there a masterpost for support groups somewhere?

    2. 3Js*

      As someone with cPTSD and a manager, I would love a group to discuss how to navigate the intricacies of professional life.

  5. L.H. Puttgrass*

    Congrats, LW3! After reading about that mess of a PI in today’s first post, it’s good to be reminded what a difference a great, supportive PhD advisor can make.

  6. 3Js*

    As someone with cPTSD and a manager, I would love a group to discuss how to navigate the intricacies of professional life.

  7. Cam*

    LW1’s story resonates. So glad it worked out for them.

    I was diagnosed with PTSD a few years ago. I’d always prided myself on holding it together so well. Even my therapist professed shock at how functional I was, despite one of the worst histories of trauma she’d heard in a decade of practice.

    Well, nobody told me that trauma therapy makes everything worse before it gets better. I was a mess for a solid year: panic attacks, dissociation, night terrors, you name it. I barely slept for 6 months. People told me I looked like a ghost.

    Thank God for my boss. I told her right after I’d been diagnosed. She replied that she had a PTSD diagnosis herself and was so supportive. It was a rough year, but my symptoms improved and soon after I got promoted.

    I left that job last year for a more senior role. My old boss and I are now friends. I’m still so grateful for her support and discretion during my recovery.

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