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Topic: Can't handle my job - but can't leave

8 posts, 0 answered
  1. Sasquatchion
    Sasquatchion  avatar
    14 posts
    13 September 2021

    I just want this part of my life to be over. I joined the ADF three years ago when I was lost. My parents, both veterans, thought it would be a good fit for me and I would learn life skills, make friend and figure out what direction I wanted in life.

    Big mistake.

    I was suffering from depression in 2018 but it's so, so much worse now. Every time I have to put my uniform on I feel sick. I was reported to the medics because they were concerned I was going to take my life (which was true, however I have since learnt that was a bad idea) and now I am stuck in a dead-end posting that saps away at my soul every single day. I'm trying my best to prepare for my future by going to university and while it's challenging I love it and can't wait to really get involved in my next career - but I still have three years left on my contract with the ADF. I am in the Navy and they will never send me back to another ship, which means I am stuck in this horrible, awful position ashore. I have tried raising a request to leave via a medical discharge but who knows how long that will take. 6-12 months, at a minimum. I don't know if I can last that long. I am sick of the ADF. You are belittled daily, your work is never appreciated, I get screamed at for mentally struggling. My mental health is looked at like I am a burden. People here are not sympathetic. You are forced to take medication and therapy with psychologists whose only goal is to get you deployable again so that the ADF can wring the most out of you before they throw you away. My doctor yells at me for gaining weight, even though I've been diagnosed with BED and cannot control my stress eating. I can't be trusted with my own health, apparently. The only work option for me is to work shift work, which leaves me tired, stressed and without much time to complete my university assignments. The only option for me to work normal hours is if I move away from my partner, which would isolate me even more. I know that if I did not have my partner with me I would sink further into my coping mechanisms and that would make me feel even worse.

    Everything I've read about coping with work stresses and anxiety suggests quitting. But what am I supposed to do when that isn't an option? The ADF forces me to be a sailor 24/7, 365 days a year and I can't do that anymore. I want to become a person again, not a number.

    1 person found this helpful
  2. smallwolf
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    smallwolf avatar
    5620 posts
    13 September 2021 in reply to Sasquatchion

    Hi. I have a friend who used to be in the Navy though he was on a ship. Other than that I don't really know much about that life. I was also concerned your post might slip down the page :(

    It does sound like you are caught between a rock and a hard place. I know from your post you are not trusting of the psychologists in the ADF thought would have hoped they would be a little more sympathetic.

    Can you please tell me more about the job on shore?

  3. Sasquatchion
    Sasquatchion  avatar
    14 posts
    13 September 2021 in reply to smallwolf

    No problem smallwolf, it's a life that not many understand (even people who work in the Navy don't really understand it).

    I was on a ship as well, though I'll keep the name secret for privacy reasons. While I didn't particularly love it, I made some good friends before I was medically pulled away for my mental health.

    The shore position is awful. 11 hour days and 13 nights with barely any time to get my body clock in check before having to swap when I am working. I understand this is the life of shift work, but my medication makes me drowsy so it's a struggle to cope with the hours. When I asked about possible positions that would work normal ADF day hours I was told it would not happen unless I was posted way, which noting the current state of our borders I would not like. My partner is also in the services so we barely see each other as it is, so being stuck across the border from her just to work better hours is not worth it.

    The work itself is dull. Just basic administrative work, nothing like the job I signed up for. There is a high turnover of people that come in and out of this particular station, so I am constantly having to fix the mistakes of the new people and by the time I train them they leave and I have to do it all over again. Hours spent fixing other people's mistakes in a job that I despise. It gets very grating and I usually cry on my way to work. 11 or 13 hours is a long time to feel uncomfortable and that's how I feel whenever I am in my uniform. It makes me feel sick.

    I was hopeful that I would receive the help I needed from the psychologists, but thus far I feel as though they have been pushing an agenda. Just last week my psyche told me that no one would take me seriously if I kept putting on weight, as fat people are looked down on in society. Struggling with my eating disorder was hard enough, so thanks for the kind words there...

    It may sound silly, but I don't trust anything ADF related. I know there are support places for current serving members and veterans, but I feel uncomfortable talking to anyone about my feelings if I know they're associated with the ADF.

    I know all of my problems won't be solved by leaving, nothing is that easy, but just not having to conform to these standards anymore and being able to be my own person again will be freeing enough to let me deal with my own issues. Never felt the urge to do anything crazy, but after 3 years with a military haircut all I want to do is dye it some crazy colour!

  4. smallwolf
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    smallwolf avatar
    5620 posts
    14 September 2021 in reply to Sasquatchion

    That must be frustrating having to correct other people errors. And see them leave after you have trained them! I suspect that while the work might seem dull, it is probably also important?

    Are you allowed to get any help external to the ADF?

    I would agree with you about the kind words about weight... Sarcasm alert. This is why I asked about getting help external.

    What sort of stuff do you eat to cope with stress?

  5. Makin a change
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    Makin a change  avatar
    3 posts
    15 September 2021 in reply to Sasquatchion

    Hey Mate,

    What's really interesting is, what is it that your studying? that appears to be key to your happiness for me, and if that is indeed what brings you joy, then putting your heart and soul into it seems the only way moving forward. Forgive me for I don't know the ins and outs on how the ADF operate in terms of, can you quit? and what are the repercussions if you do?. What is abundantly clear is if you stay on course without taking the necessary steps to get your well-being back into balance, mental or physical could very much cause more distress and anguish, after all it is only a job. I understand the challenges with having family members go before you in that line of work, but that's not what's important here, better to have a son that's happy and healthy than one that isn't( you know what I'm mean). We all have one shot at life, take it, embrace it and move forward with all your heart of that that gives you joy, and don't hold back! be even stronger than those that seek to bound you to the chains of despair. You are well equipped to do what's right for you. Chase your dreams no matter the obstacles and work towards bringing stability back to your well-being. I wish you the best mate, I really do and hope you can find solution for you.

    Mak that change

    2 people found this helpful
  6. white knight
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    white knight avatar
    9174 posts
    15 September 2021 in reply to Sasquatchion

    Hi, welcome,

    Your story has parallels with mine. I truly understand. Joined the RAAF in 1973 as a radio tech but ended up a librarian doing amendments, hated it. Boring. Was able to leave after 3 years then as Whitlam cut the defence forces. During that 3 years Guard duty shift work I couldnt handle. Older airmen were cruel. No one took this young man under their wing. Had driving issues with police, sent to a psychologist. Later learned his only order was to find out if I was beneficial to the Air Force, talk about lack of care. I dont believe the ADF has changed.

    My only good report was a commendation from my Wing Commander about my efforts with the cyclone Tracey cyclone relief effort. I had undiagnosed bipolar. I was also impulsive and was "stuck".

    Ok, so now I'm 65yo and wiser. I think your boring job can be changed in terms of outlook. Spend a few extra moments away from your desk talking to other people during errands. This is distraction, better than brooding over your boring work. Make excuses to attend another locations and so on. Watch how others survive.

    Visit your GP and ask for a slight reduction or review of your medication. I have had issues similar when my meds were too high.

    Shift work for those with mental illness has huge ramifications. I was in security for many years - not good for mental illness. It plays with your mind as well. It might be a good thing you arent on a ship as there isnt a way you can just get off it if you have a meltdown imo.

    At the time prior to my discharge I felt 3 years was a long time. I was so impulsive. Patience eluded me. Looking back, 3 years wasnt long at all if I had planned my end of 6 years better. Any GF relationship could have been continued via messaging and now SKYPE as well as the odd physical meet up....even plans to settle at the end of 6 years. I'm saying that your current state doesnt help and is a level of paranoia (donning the uniform) that you can try to get into a different perspective. Eg its only cloth.

    Medical discharge takes a long time for assessment mainly I believe because post discharge you'll have a ADF pension and that is life long, a big ask for the ADF to commit to.

    So,my advice that might help is- avoid shift work, spend your work time more elusively to include other locations and if it means you'll survive better those last 3 years at a base away from your partner then do so and rearrange your contact with her so it is manageable until discharge.

    Repost anytime

    TonyWK

    1 person found this helpful
  7. Sasquatchion
    Sasquatchion  avatar
    14 posts
    20 September 2021 in reply to white knight

    G'day Tony,

    Nice to hear from someone who "gets" Defence. It's a weird world that no one truly understands unless they've experienced it. You're right, the ADF has not changed at all. Outwardly they are preaching inclusivity and a workplace that is fit for the "new generation". Seems to me like you were ahead of the curve and knew that it wasn't a good place. I feel like I am consistently being looked down on, despite the fact that I do good work. All of my reports from my various postings have been nothing but positive. Ever since I was reported to my chain of command for being at "at risk" personal regarding my mental health I've been faced with discrimination and a lack of care. All they want is for me to get better... but on their terms. I've been given a tight timeline of 12 months to get mentally better or else they'll extend my medical restrictions. I don't want that. I was trying to force myself to fit into their little box but not anymore! I'm finished trying to be a good little sailor. I want to finish my studies and actually do a job that I think is worthwhile, but now I am worried they will try and keep me on for another 12 months to try and get me back onto a seagoing ship.

    I am looking into cutting out shift work, though I am not entirely sure how successful that will be. All I can do is try, right?

    I know that mental illness is a lifelong battle and I DO want it to become manageable, but I want to do it on my own terms. My partner is supportive of my mental health journey of self-discovery - I just want to shed the weight on my shoulders that comes with ADF and figure it out myself. Will it be hard? Sure. Will I sometimes doubt myself? Totally. I don't think I'll have any regrets, though. I've pushed away the ADF brainwashing and realise that showing some weakness isn't a flaw.

    Working on feeling a little bit more comfortable in the uniform. You're right, it's just cloth.

    Cheers,

    Sasquatchion

  8. white knight
    Community Champion
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    white knight avatar
    9174 posts
    20 September 2021 in reply to Sasquatchion

    Hi Sas

    We often talk about perspective here. Pigeon holing things is helpful. It's a way of coping better. You've given the ADF your best shot, it hasn't only not worked out for you, you've fallen victim of their unfair treatment methods.

    I'm a battlefield they'd give one a medal to rescue a fallen soldier but they won't rescue you with empathy.

    However, that knowledge of reality of their system is but one of several crucial steps for survival. If you become too paranoid of this situation you'll suffer more. So a best mental approach is recommended by me.

    E.g. the saying "forgive them, for they don't know what they do" is appropriate. Better to feel sorry for sheep following protocol than building up anger that doesn't help you.

    I believe 80% of humans have no empathy/insight if mental illness. 10% have limited empathy. 5% understand the struggle and 5% are diagnosed. Rough figures but any wonder why we should forgive them. If an astronaut told you what space was like, how many of us truly could imagine flying in space? None.

    Hence "play their game". Fortunately you no longer strive to excel in the Navy hence don't suffer the "feeling of failure" of your career. Your challenge is finding the best roads forward to survive within the blue machine of which you are contracted to. E.g. when you're yelled at, inside smile- let them yell, it's ok, it's only loud words in coloured cloth.

    It's all about perspective. There is casualties in all forms of life. Ending up on a scrap heap doesn't mean your not a good person nor a failure. In your case you don't fit into their plans/expectations. And they don't fit into yours.

    Forgive them, care for yourself and weather the storm. I hope that helps.

    TonyWK

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