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Career Failure and Full of Regrets

by Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I have always suffered from performance anxiety, social anxiety, and a certain degree of manic-depression. However I am very smart/talented and was very successful in high-school and attended a top university. I was very unhappy there and almost dropped out despite good grades. I was briefly treated for anxiety caused by a prescription drug and this treatment made me happy, outgoing and popular, but also manic and sexually dysfunctional. During this time I was recruited to many great jobs but was scared to take them and instead started my own dot-com business. However once off the treatment my anxiety/depression returned and the business did not develop too much. Eventually it failed and it became just me working for one of our clients. This spanned 15 years since college and overall it provided a pretty good income in a low-stress environment although I had to work from home and it was very lonely.

Recently that good situation collapsed. Although the client loved my work, the CEO lied about it for years and took credit for it herself. When I found out she demanded I also lie to her Board to save face for her. This meant not taking credit for ten years of my work so I refused. She was caught in a lie and fired me in retaliation and the Board did nothing to stop her although they were fully informed. So I hired an attorney and sued, and they gave me a small settlement. My attorney then demanded more than that settlement amount in fees which was not what we agreed. I now have no job, no positive reference for ten years of my work, and a legal bill I am unwilling to pay.

The unfairness of this situation is making me extremely angry. I feel like the CEO, the Board, and my attorney are all users and liars who cared nothing about what was fair or right, and only about their own profit. They all saw me as a weak person and took full advantage of me.

Now I am full of regrets. I regret I didn’t pursue a career that would have provided more job security like medicine instead of chasing dreams on the internet. I regret I didn’t find some better treatment of my symptoms so I could have managed the business better. I regret I never found any satisfying relationship b/c of my anxiety problems and lonely work situation.

Worse, I don’t see a path forward. How can I find a new job when my past ten years has just been erased? How can I be happy starting with a small job again when my classmates are at the top of their fields making six and seven figure incomes? I could have been like them if I didn’t have these problems to deal with. I am also tormented by the many great business ideas I want to pursue, but am afraid will fail like the first one. I don’t want to be a 40 year old loser. I don’t know what to do.

You are being very hard on yourself. If a friend shared this experience with you, you probably would not warn them that they are at risk of becoming a “40-year-old loser.” My guess is that you would provide encouragement and reassurance.

Things did not evolve as planned but you have had a successful career. An unexpected event occurred that was outside of your control. How could you have predicted such an outcome? The answer is that there is no way you could have known. You cannot change history but you can learn from it.

My advice is to reframe your view of this situation. You are not a failure. You were highly successful for a significant period of time but due to events outside of your control, you’ve lost your income. You are comparing yourself to your friends but each person has unique life circumstances. It is not a fair comparison.

You are only seeing the negative aspects of your situation but there are positives. Now you have a chance to do what you always wanted. Many people never have this opportunity. They live their entire lives engaged in a less-than-ideal career and never change course. You have that opportunity now. In this way you are very fortunate. Had the unforeseen event not occurred it may have been impossible to begin a new career. Think of it as a gift. You are now in the position where you must forge on and start over. Maybe this is the jumpstart that you’ve needed to change the course of your life to a new, more desirable direction.

You are now on the verge of doing something that you have always wanted to do. Going forward will be an uphill battle but you have no choice. It won’t be easy but nothing that is valuable in life ever is.

I wish you the best of luck with your future endeavors. If you have continued difficulties, it would be advantageous to consider therapy. A therapist can help you remain objective and also support your efforts to rebuild your career. There is no shame in wanting to ensure that one’s thought processes are as sharp and as realistic as possible. In addition, it will allow you to receive the mental health treatment you regret not pursuing 15 years ago. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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