Steve, I'm an old cuss and don't generally buy into the current thing of all the 'mental health' issue regarding working a career. Being an old farm boy from the midwest, I think I can relate to the effects of hard work.
HOWEVER, after having put in 42 years working in the IT industry, I can testify that the effects of my farming background far outweigh the effects of the years of pressure and long hours, etc in IT. At 80 years old, I suffer chronic pain from what my doctor says is arthritis.
On the farm, as you well know, there is constant lifting, carrying, straining ourselves just to get the work done. I have had serious back pain for about 50 years, and now experience severe joint pain especially in my shoulders, likely from lifting 80# bales of hay and 100# bags of livestock feed, even carrying them up a stairway to the second floor of a livestock barn. I experience stabbing pain in my shoulders simply from shifting my position in bed at night. So far I have been able to resist the use of serious drugs, nothing stronger than Tylenol, to ease the symptoms, instead using topical solutions for relief, and that is amazingly effective.
Mental health? Well, I think I'm doing OK. At one point I experienced professional psychiatric evaluations over a period of time with family, and the net results were that the doctor's opinion was "We've never tested anyone as 'normal' as you are." At that point I was probably three-quarters through the IT career.
In my undergraduate studies I had many credit hours in Psychology and Sociology, parts of which were dealing with persons from grade school students through patients incarcerated in mental institutions. My conclusion is that mental health problems are not caused by career effort so much as by our internal response to such pressure. And further, we have to make responsible decisions on how we handle these situations.
Trying to affect and change internal operations of employment likely contributes more to mental health problems than it does to relieve them. Mental health is a response thing.
Now in saying all this, I have to add that I admire and am encouraged by your realization of your situation, and think you are taking a healthy view for yourself. I encourage you to continue considering this and to make necessary adjustments as needed to take care of YOURSELF.
I'm reminded of an old saying that I have no idea of the source which goes "Sometimes the gain ain't worth the pain".
If any of you find yourself in a career sitution where you are concerned about mental health, then GET THE HELL OUT, otherwise GET OVER IT. It's up to YOU. Somewhat related to this point of view, when I was raising four sons, my advice to them was often "If you don't want to get in trouble, don't be where the trouble is". (By the way, three of the four are following careers in IT and they range in age from 52 to 57 years old).
I wish you all the best.
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