Anxiety In An IT Role

One of the biggest challenges I face while dealing with anxiety is my job. I work in a small IT department for a company with about 150 employees, all with varying levels of IT knowledge and all with very different patience levels when it comes to things they don’t understand, or that don’t work how they expect them to. Users are frustrating to any IT person at the best of times before mental health is even a variable.

The biggest obstacle I face is the variation in my job role, which is down to the small team I am part of. Some organisations have the luxury of having an entire team dedicated to their storage infrastructure. An entire team dedicated to networking. An entire team dedicated to database administration. More teams for wireless networking, directory services, security, teams for different application stacks, teams of developers. The list goes on. As it stands, I am the company database administrator, Sharepoint administrator, Skype for Business administrator, general application administrator, PKI administrator and developer, which isn’t even the complete list. I also do my fair share of network management, virtualisation administration, general domain administration, and then end user support for anything from “we need a microwave link to a platform offshore,” to my printer is printing a black line on every page. I’m also jointly responsible for network security, telephony, door access systems and I’m the holiday cover for the guy that does everything else. 

As you might immagine this is quite a stressful workload. Keeping the wheels turning is so time consuming it often involves overtime to fix issues or install security patches, and leaves very little time to complete tasks I consider essential to all good implementation projects, such as proper documentation for the next guy to take over, user documentation to act as training materials, and organising and providing end user trainin

Development is bitter sweet when it comes to dealing with anxiety. The development process is a great escape from the general bustle of the office. Headphones on and keyboard smoking is the best ways to pass the day without even blinking. The problem comes when the deadline is looming. If the project is behind schedule, that can cause any amount of anxiety, but not as much as the prospect of releasing an application into the wild for users to scrutinise and find problems with. This is inevitable with any application you release, which might be the best applications in the world but that doesn’t stop the feelings of self consciousness, or prevent a developer suffering from anxiety from losing sleep. Having somebody use something you spend weeks coding and testing and coding and testing, only to complain that there is a typo on some button in a settings menu is a terrible feeling, and often feels like a massive kick in the balls.

Perhaps the most unbarabley extreme anxiety attacks come from my least favourite part of my job though. Presenting an application to users, or providing training on a new product. Standing in front of 150 people trying to teach them something is ridiculously hard for me and something I sinserely hope no anxiety sufferer has to go through, although they inevitably will since the world doesn’t stop for anybody. I have yet to schedule some user training for a product that I deployed months ago. The problem is, I keep delaying booking the training sessions in because I can’t face all of the judgmental faces in the room staring back at me, asking stupid questions to try and disprove what I am telling them. I’ve even considered handing my notice in to be completely honest, just to avoid the prospect of it.

In this day and age employers should be able to spot the signs and do more to help employees suffering with anxiety. Unfortunately though due to the culture of the workplace today, mental health is still a taboo subject, and anxiety is hushed up like some kind of dirty secret. Since the only other people in the company that know about your condition  are in Human Resources, most anxiety sufferers are still expected to perform tasks that cause extreme anxieiousness. It’s about time the world stopped ignoring mental health illnesses, which in itself would probably go a long way towards helping sufferers.