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Woman's anxiety causes severe problems at work; 'I NEEDED to stalk my coworker.' AITA? UPDATED 3X

Woman's anxiety causes severe problems at work; 'I NEEDED to stalk my coworker.' AITA? UPDATED 3X

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When this woman's mental illness gets the best of her, she asks the internet:

"My anxiety caused me severe problems at work. I had to stalk my coworker. AITA?"

I have been working at my current job for a year. It is my first post-college job and my first full-time job ever besides an internship each summer I was in college.

I struggle with anxiety and have worked really hard to make a good impression and keep my anxiety under control at work. It’s still causing problems though and has caused an incident I’m mortified and ashamed over.

I often stuggle with thoughts about people not liking me. I’m in therapy and on medication, but sometimes the thoughts overwhelm me and it’s one of the worst parts of my anxiety.

The incident I’m talking about started when one coworker didn’t say goodbye to me when we were leaving for the day on a Friday.

I obsessed about it all weekend. I tried to tell myself it would be fine because I would see her on Monday and she would return my greeting, but when I got in on Monday she wasn’t there and I found out she was off for the week.

My anxiety went into overdrive even after a visit with my therapist. I was obsessing over what I did to upset or make her hate me.

Her pay stub had been dropped off at her desk and was still there because she was off work. I opened it so I could see her address and I went to her house. I don’t know what I was thinking and I didn’t have a plan.

My coworker was angry. She came in even though she was on time off and told our manager and HR about me opening her pay stub and coming to her house.

I was reprimanded and sent to a different department to keep me away from my coworker. Everyone else knows what happened and I’ve heard people whispering and talking about it. I am mortified at myself. I’m not allowed to talk to my coworker or I would apologize for my behavior.

She said she would call the police if I didn’t keep away from her. I can’t stop thinking about what happened and don’t know what to do going forward. I read your site every day and you are always non-judgmental and kind to people who write in about mental health issues. Do you have any advice for me?

Before we give you OP's major updates, let's take a look at some of the top responses:

dataqueen writes:

I am so sorry you are going through this. I also encourage you to go to HR and let them know as much as you’re comfortable with about your condition, your treatment plan, and the nature of your intentions with the incident.

They might even be able to help with offering an EAP resource to get you additional or subsidized treatment! The way I’m reading this, your actions came from a place of kindness, but your disease chose to manifest that core kindness into actions you wouldn’t have chosen for yourself.

So remind yourself that at the core, your intention was kindness, friendship, reconciliation – and your disease did the rest. The only thing you can do now is continue to take care of yourself, and kudos to you for recognizing that!

bagpuss writes:

I agree with this. If you have not already spoken to HR about your medical issues and how they led to you acting inappropriately it would be sensible to do so.
I think also it maybe worth considering whether you would feel comfortable with any of that information being given to your coworker,

(Perhaps a very brief “[YourName] suffers from a medical condition resulting in extreme anxiety. She has advised that that was what triggered her actions in opening your mail and going to your home, as she was concerned that she had upset you and wanted to apologise / clarify.

She has asked us to pass this information to you, with her apology, so that you are aware that this was a one off incident which she recognises was not appropriate, not part of a situation likely to escalate”)


But obviously only do that if you feel comfortable with her having that information, and if HR agree that it would be appropriate in your situation.

concrete6 writes:

As someone who both has mental health problems and has been abused by people with mental health problems, you want to be very careful not to imply that abusive or creepy behavior is ok because it was motivated by mental illness.

It would be useful to HR to know about the anxiety because it affects how the company responds to the incident. It would not be useful to the victim of OP’s harassment to hear the motivation behind it. OP needs to work on this problem in a way that places no responsibility on anyone they have harmed.

juniordev writes:

Yes and I understand OP knows what they did wrong so I’m not trying to pile on, but as someone who both has mental health problems and has been abused by people with mental health problems, you want to be very careful not to imply that abusive or creepy behavior is ok because it was motivated by mental illness.

It would be useful to HR to know about the anxiety because it affects how the company responds to the incident. It would not be useful to the victim of OP’s harassment to hear the motivation behind it. OP needs to work on this problem in a way that places no responsibility on anyone they have harmed.

And now, OP's first update:

I just wanted to thank you for responding in such a non-judgmental way. I wanted to send in an update for what happened.

The coworker was not a friend outside of work but the place I work is a friendly place where people get along with each other. People always say “good morning” and “goodbye” to everyone. I know it was my aniexty that caused me to think she didn’t like me because she forgot to say goodbye one time.

She had never been unfriendly to me before and logically nothing happened to make her upset with me that she would not be speaking to me. I know it was my aniexty which caused me to think otherwise. It caused the interaction at her home to be a bad one with yelling and crying on my end and her nearly calling 911.

My coworker knows I have anxiety and it was the cause of my actions but she said it does not matter. I had asked HR to pass along a message to her and they said no and told me to leave it alone.

There was also a police investigation of my theft of her pay stub regarding identity theft. Nothing came of it but between that and the stress of what happened with my coworker my aniexty went into overdrive. I was terminated after I kept asking HR and my old manager to give a message of apology to my coworker, even though I had been told to stop.

I have switched medications and have a new therapist. This whole thing has shown me I need to better manage my issue to get it under control. I realize and understand why it was a problem. I’m also looking for a less busy and stressful job. I have been reading through the archives for resume advice.

Readers continued to weigh in on OP's dilemma:

fava7 writes:

OP #1, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. I personally know how incredibly hard it is to have anxiety. For me, I can be very much aware that my anxiety over a social moment is irrational, but the feelings persist.

Fortunately I’m able to control my behavior, so I’m just stuck with a really painful loop of irrational thoughts until it fades on its own. It’s so awful to experience, and it’s so hard on one’s self-esteem to be like this.

I hope you’re not being too hard on yourself. It is great, and it is essential, that you do everything you can to get your symptoms under your control. But it’s not your fault that you have a mental health problem, and you can’t guarantee that even with a lot of hard work and medication trials that you’ll be symptom free.

I guess there’s just something about your language around managing your illness that sounds like self-blame.

So I hope you can be relentless about taking steps towards better mental health, whether that’s therapy or medication or lifestyle changes or all this and more, but I hope you can also recognize that you didn’t choose to be dealt these mental health cards.

FWIW, I was anxious my whole life (had a ton of coping skills I used as a kid to deal with the emotional pain) and it wasn’t until I was nearly 50 that I was diagnosed with ADHD and winter depression.

I was amazed to find that Adderall and Wellbutrin addressed the symptoms of those two problems but also the severe anxiety I experienced with both. I am now anxiety free, and I never thought it would be possible. So I hold out hope for you that you will find a combination of diagnosis and treatment that serve you just as well.

kms966 writes:

I want to say this in the kindest way possible. Sometimes an apology only makes the one apologizing feel better, not the one being apologized to. Everyone screws up and makes mistakes and ideally is able to talk those mistakes out and apologize and move on with life.

Sometimes though, mistakes are so harmful to the other party that the best thing you can do is abide by their wishes and vow to yourself to learn from this and never do it again.

Talk to your therapist, share with HR if you feel that they need a little backstory, but please stay away from this co-worker. You probably risk further disciplinary actions if you attempt to contact them in any way as the company has already gone to certain lengths to separate you two. Learn from this, seek further treatment, grow from it and move on. Good luck to you.

And now OP's second update, 18 months later:

I wrote in to you last year and you answered my letter very kindly. I wrote in about my anxiety causing trouble at my work and how I went to my coworker’s house because I thought she didn’t like me.

I was grateful to you and each person who took the time to respond and lend support.

The Bad: The new therapist and medication did not work out. I had a really bad relapse that led to more problem behavior and some drug use. It wasn’t just with my former coworker but a relative also. I ended up being charged and there are restraining orders with both of them.

The Good: The bad stuff led to me meeting the best and most competent therapist. He has helped me more than anything ever in my life. I had never used illegal drugs before the relapse and haven’t since. He has changed my life.

Things like what happened with my former coworker that used to cause me anxiety no longer do. I am living alone and have done things like skydiving and dirt biking.

I got a part-time job through a program for people on probation with mental health issues and I’m starting part-time night classes soon too. I have never felt better. I’m ashamed of my past behaviors but hopeful for the future.

What do YOU make of OP's story? Any advice for her?

Sources: Reddit
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