Return from leave feeling undefined

I’m about to return from a short leave of absence (couple weeks) due to depression and anxiety that culminated in a breakdown, and I’m terrified because I’m tasked with defining what my job should be now. I have to return Monday (two days from now) and it’s sending me into a very dark spiral.

Background: I have risen in the ranks of management after a number of years of dev, data, and BI work. My stress & responsibility level grew exponentially over the past 18 months, and once I realized that depression + anxiety was too hard to manage, I got on meds and into therapy (new to meds, not new to therapy). I found managing and growing a team intensely gratifying, but found the management politics and the mismatch between responsibility (“It’s all on you”) and authority (Senior Management pressing ahead despite my repeated warnings of a very expensive failure) became too much. I had a breakdown in a parking lot near work and sent some emails, but my message of “WE MUST STOP THIS IMPENDING FAILURE ITS GOING TO HURT A LOT OF PEOPLE” probably got muddled with “I need to step away for my physical and mental health”.

So, stuff that’s keeping me awake and terrified:
A) if I try to go back to my current job unchanged (if that’s even still an option), trust is broken all over the place and I will fall into the same bad patterns as before (overwork, care about others too much, breakdown).
B) I am so depressed right now that I can barely define “what makes me happy”, much less "what should your career be now crazy lady"
C) I could return to a non-manager role in theory, but oh my goodness I’ve spent the last two years managing a team with less and less time for my tech skills and I feel horribly inadequate (despite empirical evidence I still know stuff). My most recent reviews have been great, but they were all about leadership, no significant geekery work in what feels like ages.
D) And dammit Depression, I worked REALLY HARD as a women in technology to create a non-toxic, highly functional software team that valued and recognized the worth of all the roles, I don’t want to watch that destroyed due to apathy or chaos. Who will care for them like I do? I know the IT structure above/adjacent to me is dysfunctional at best.

Yes, I have an updated resume. Yes, I’ve done job searching on multiple platforms. Yes, I’m trying to reintegrate into local tech user groups.

But I feel mostly like the old, horrible error “object reference not set to an instance of an object”, and the “production release” is set for Monday.

Thanks in advance for any guidance, I appreciate just having somewhere to air this.


Has there been some sort of re-entry plan created for your transition back into the workplace? Often times it’s recommended to gradually increase hours and responsibilities as you grow accustomed to being back (& being brought up to speed communication-wise).

That might also be an opportunity for you to address the causes that is causing you (& likely, your team) undue stress.

@alisonplus thanks for the reply! I’ll be meeting with HR and my managers (I have two) today to review my proposal for re-entry, and then I’ll find out what they want to pursue. For better or worse, I’ve no idea whther flexibility = good or flexibility = rope to hang myself with because they don’t have a plan for how to deal with this.
And as much as I’d like this to be a time for “hey, let’s prevent this from happening to the team again”, I tried that pitch several times before my breakdown and it was NOT received well. The goals and plans remained fixed, and any note of capacity or financial constraints was not enough to change things. And the response to my breakdown was very focused on my being an isolated problem that needed to go away and rest (depression will be cured in weeks, it’s a miracle!) rather than a sign of a systemic problem affecting many people.
Help me Zoloft, you’re my only hope. :wink:

Glad that you’re having some sort of official meeting about it!

Like you said, it sounds like the issues are so systematically in place that you would really need upper management’s cooperation to actually shift things. In which case, I would use the meeting’s time for yourself and what would help YOU the most in re-entering. I know it’s a muddle as far as if you want to stay in a leadership role, continue to develop (or both).

Do your best to ask for the accommodations that would benefit you during this time! It isn’t asking “too much” as long as they’re reasonable and would benefit your health.

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