Peer support subsequent to trauma contributes to full recovery

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) -- including complex trauma (cPTSD) -- is debilitating, breaking down the body through anxiety and stress, and it poses a significant suicide risk in sufferers. MyPTSD seeks to help and inform those who are directly or indirectly affected by these conditions through peer-to-peer support and educational resources.

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How to Explain PTSD to Employer/Office Staff

Discussion in 'Employment & Education' started by SweetpinNH, Jun 15, 2008.

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  1. SweetpinNH

    SweetpinNH Active Member

    I have been out of work for 8 weeks due to newly diagnosed PTSD. I'm about to have a meeting with my employer about returning to work in mid-July. How do you explain PTSD to your employer and, beyond that, to other people you work with? My boss knows I have PTSD, but I have not spoken with him about it.

    I don't want to continually answer questions about my medical leave nor do I want to tell everyone about my PTSD. Do you have suggestions for talking with other staff once I return to work?

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  3. linasmom

    linasmom Well-Known Member


    Is it necessary that you tell them? It is not any of their business -medical issues especially.

    I would simply say that I had some health issues that needed attending to and leave it at that. Most of the time, people won't prod if you don't offer up anymore information than that.

    If your employer is requiring the information for medical leaves, then that is between you, your doctor, and the vendor who provides those "leave" services for the company.

  4. SweetpinNH

    SweetpinNH Active Member

    I guess my biggest fear is what do I say if I start to have an Anxiety/panic attack at work. My job, as it was structured, was one of causes of the PTSD. When I go back I will have to do different tasks. I'm not even sure I'll be able to handle going into the office. I do intend to work mainly from home, but once a week I will have to go into the office.

    I don't like being the center of attention and since we are a small company I will be the center of attention when I come into the office. I guess it's a good thing I work with DH so I will have one supporter there in case I need it.
  5. 2quilt

    2quilt I'm a VIP

    my advice

    I worked for one of the largest health insurance companies in the US. That's past tense. I was the top producer in the claims dept., letters of commendation on the wall, all that. I got raises every 6 months. They loved me.

    The minute I got sick they treated me like toxic waste. No loyalty or mercy whatsoever. Be very careful what you say to your employer because of the rumor mill. Say Nothing to your coworkers because that is none of their business, even the ones you think are your friends. Ask your employer (boss) to keep what you say to her confidential, and only report the necessary facts, without embellishment , to the person or dept that requires you to divulge. To everyone else, you simply needed time off. That's the end of discussion of your personal life. You do not owe your coworkers an explanation! The nice coworkers can't keep secrets, and the ones who are not nice should never know any scrap of your personal life!

    If you don't you may soon see that they have not fired you, but you will not be on the schedule. They will not fire you because then they will have to pay unemployment. Instead, the company begins to treat you badly, in an effort to make you want to quit. Or, they will simply give you one hour per week on the schedule. They will become nasty, and if you were not careful about what you told the boss about PTSD, your coworkers may start making comments about you or rudely come up to you and say, "when did you lose your mind? I didn't know you were sick in the head..." or something like that.

    Never! never! tell your boss about the details of your Abuse. Imagine if you can, you standing on a stage in front of the whole company and telling your details on a megaphone. Your secrets will be fodder for every person there who has no idea how to be discrete, kind, or considerate about your illness.

    In my last job before total disability, I worked for a catalog selling lingerie. You know that name.
    I came to work in my electric scooter, and my boss was just dying to know all the details of why i used a scooter, why I had leg braces, everything. I denied him any speck of information because according to the ADA, my disabilities never interfered with my job duties. "The day they do, i will tell you what is relevant." he hated me for that. He accused me of lying to get my job sitting at a desk answering the phones! He was a real ashhole.

    Of course, your illness interferes with your job duties, so the ADA does not apply now, but what i am trying to say here as my point is, my boss was chomping at the bit to hear all the dirty details which was none of his business; he was drooling to know that about me, and because I refused to tell him, *he made my life hell*, and I eventually quit because he was going to give me a bad review, something we both knew I never deserved. I was top producer at the call center, too. But if I had stayed there and fought the bad review, with my proof, it would have made my PTSD worse with all the stress. Life is too short, IMHO to hate your job, especially what it was just a job, not my career.

    Be choosey on what you divulge. It could bite you in the butt later.
  6. She Cat

    She Cat I'm a VIP
    Premium Member

    IMO... You tell only what you feel comfortable in doing, and nothing more. If your boss knows then fine. If someone asks why you are out of work so much.....You have been ill and don't feel comfortable in explaining. Tough crap if they don't understand, it's their issue, not yours. There is still a word called PRIVACY in this world.
  7. FlameTachiku

    FlameTachiku Active Member

    I very much agree with the above. There are better places to share the details of your (diagnosis) than at work. Perhaps they will ask a question like "how can we best support you when you come back?" This is a great time to be clear and ready, with things, ideas, that will support you. Best wishes to you.
  8. ga yankee

    ga yankee Active Member

    I've been out 5 months on disability. This is my second time..the first I was out 3 months. I told my bosses that I had PTSD and they were very supportive when I came back. It was a tight secret for months and then I slowly started telling my very close friends. Within about a year, others were getting help too. We work at a global television network sifting out the ugly pictures that the average viewer could never see. I traveled for over a decade covering those stories in person.

    On this second leave, I have been treated worse than dog shit. I have been searching for a job in the same company and have interviewed twice for a management position away from the death and destruction. My quandry was whether to tell my interviewer about my treatment because I feel like NOT telling is lying. But then a friend asked me if I felt the need to tell them about my knee reconstruction also. Before I wanted to be honest and more secrets. After the way I've been treated this last round....I have NO faith in my company at all.

    I gave them over 15 years of service, risking my life and messing up my head and they have done nothing to help me. My friends and family are my support system...not my job. My friends did research and have tried to understand what I boss asked me point blank: "i don't understand all this...I don't understand what bothers tornados bother you? hurricanes?" i told her dead people bother me. dead mothers and fathers and children and animals. she told me i should look for a new job.

    the only advice i can give you is to say only what you're comfortable with and nothing more. depending on where you live, there are many laws that say your medical info/history is NONE of their business. I wish i had said nothing. and if/when i do get a job, i will probably say nothing.
  9. 2quilt

    2quilt I'm a VIP

    I had never thought about what reporters must go through until you told us this. I just never thought about who edits out the terrible, or how they decide what the average person can tolerate in a video news story. Normally, if there is a notice of viewer discretion, i change channels as quickly as possible because i was in Desert Storm, and I can't take the sight and sounds of War or disaster. Thanks to you for your incredible work. You are an example of how it is possible to get PTSD other than from a direct result of rape or disaster. I am sorry that your employer unloaded you when they were finished harming you. Can you get permanent disability? It's great for the original poster of this thread to hear so many views.
  10. ga yankee

    ga yankee Active Member

    2quilt ---

    you made me cry. everyone thinks we're vultures and heartless and just there for the story and then leave with no repercussions. thank you for getting it. whenever i tell someone i have ptsd they say "i didn't know you were in the Military". i have always been in a battle of my own...yes, i was abused as a child but my job is what finished me off. i've held the hands of war widows as they were on the air (off screen where no one could see), i did the audio for all the columbine funerals, i've hugged parents who just lost a child. but crying in my biz was a weakness...drinking and ignoring it is what we always do. we are currently going through the long-term disability process but it only covers 40% of my income. i'm really trying to find a job away from the regular news crap but after being ignored for sooo long, it makes my symptoms worse. i'm on the ptsd carousel of crap.

    not to get off the original post---- it bothers me that if we had cancer (knock on wood) or anything else none of this would be an issue. we shouldn't have to censor ourselves or walk on eggshells. when i'm stopped at a light i look around and imagine that most of the people around me are just as *ucked up as we are the difference is----we're at least getting help.!
  11. SweetpinNH

    SweetpinNH Active Member

    Thanks for all the advice. I will be careful when I have my first meeting with my employer and then with other office staff. Even though events in and around the office brought on the PTSD I know I need to "close" the book on the job and move on. It is only made harder because I work for the family company and we are part owners of the company.
  12. JohnOmmTech

    JohnOmmTech New Member

    SweetpinNH: I have two more suggestions: 1. When you start to feel anxious, tap the inside of your wrist until the feelings abate or go away.
  13. baileysemt

    baileysemt Active Member

    ga yankee, you and I are in a fairly similar position. I am a fire dept. photographer. I take those pics that you sort through. The only thing worse than seeing the pictures, is experiencing it in person.

    I totally understand what you are saying above. TOTALLY. I have so walked in those shoes, omg ....... *hug*

    That advice ^^^^^^ is 100% right-on, in my opinion. Listen to your boss. She's right.

    To start healing, you must remove yourself from the trauma.

    Figure out your exit plan, and *do it.*

  14. baileysemt

    baileysemt Active Member

    To follow up on what to tell people in the office/work setting... I must echo what others have said... I would be very, very careful here.

    If you go back in past threads (like back to fall '07) you will find we talked about this in depth, not wanting to be labeled the workplace nutcase. You know, every office has one... *snork*

    I would recommend digging back in past threads. Pour a cup of coffee and just read. There is a wealth of information buried in this board, but you have to go back and dig it up. :)

  15. ga yankee

    ga yankee Active Member


    and hugs to you...13 of my years were covering stories on location. i've learned the lense of a camera doesn't shield you. when you put it down you're part of the "story" and trauma too.

    i have applied to new jobs...12 with my same company out of the news division. i've gotten one reply and had 2 interviews. i'm afraid i told too many people and word spread so i'm being "black-balled" to a point. i wish i had just kept the trap shut. so many people dont' understand ptsd so why even talk about it with them. knowledge i've gained a little too late. i hope it works out for you sweetpinh!!!!
  16. Grama-Herc

    Grama-Herc I'm a VIP

    If I may share a suggestion that was passed on to me, it may help!

    Tell them "I have been dealing with some health issues that I'm not quite ready to talk about yet. Your interest and concern means a lot to me, but I am still dealing with them and sometimes I have small relapses. I would appreciate you respecting my need for privacy right now."

    Hope this helps give you some way to handle the co-workers
  17. SweetpinNH

    SweetpinNH Active Member


    Your advice is perfect. I'm going to start practicing it every day. I'm so used to telling everyone about my life that it will be hard to not say anything.
  18. Roo

    Roo Active Member

    I'd find out what information must be divulged (if any) -- and then that would be all I'd offer. I'm presently on LTD from a job that was a major source of this latest bout of PTSD. Of course, I cannot even hint that the job, and some of the people at my workplace, were causative agents. Other circumstances in my life have contributed to my illness, and they are what I focus on for the necessary "jumping through hoops." I work at a company that has about 150 employees and not one person knows what's happening with me, except our HR manager who knows just the basics. Funny that a rehab specialist (wonderful lady, actually) recently asked me if I like my job. I deliberately put a positive spin on the work and worked my mind hard to speak with a balanced perspective.

    I think, generally, where the workplace is careful; so careful. The prevailing corporate attitude tends to be, "You're a good little machine ... a cog on the wheel ... and if you become otherwise, well ... bye-bye!"

    Great example of uncaring policies: three days of bereavement leave if, say, your mate, your parent, your child dies. THREE DAYS! Jeez, a human being is still in a stupor-shock three days after a death. I was back at work nine days after my mother's death (a previous administrative job) -- even then, one afternoon I was sitting in my chair with a file in my hand, literally not knowing what the thing was.

    So if that kind of policy is in practice, you can bet you won't get much heart with a long-term illness. I'm just grateful that my insurance claim was approved -- huge surprise and I will use the opportunity as best I can for some deep healing and big changes.

    My husband, my doctor, and a few intimate friends and relatives know what's going on. To everyone else, I say nothing or the absolute minimum that is required. About this, I trust no one I didn't already trust before I became ill.

    It's a Shame to think this way -- it saddens me, actually -- because we can be so cruel (often unintentionally) in our lack of understanding and in our refusal to bring compassion to illness -- an experience which we all will be touched by.
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