I think mine was. Yesterday, I saw my electrophysiologist
for my bi-annual interrogation of my ICD
and he noticed that my irregular heartbeats had lessened. He asked me about my job and I told him that I had cut the stress of the job over the past few years by reducing the number of patients I see substantially and in addition, not taking on any more cases of those who are violent or potentially violent at the current time. He nodded and said, "it shows, because those heart palpitations have lessened--decreased stress could be the reason."
Now, as a psychologist, you would think that I would know that there is some link between stress and heart problems
and I do intellectually, but emotionally, it finally sank in that perhaps my job and the subsequent stress of dealing over a number of years with patients with severe mental illness and anger issues might have contributed to my heart attack, or at least to the subsequent ventricular tachycardia
that followed as a result of my messed-up heart.
I should have known something was wrong when I once did a research project during grad school in 1990 on the effect of my behavior on subsequent patient behavior and vice versa. I found that when doing evaluations with highly agitated patients, I felt
highly angry and stressed (but did not show it, I hope). "Oh, what an interesting chart," I thought when I turned it into the professor (with all clients coded with numbers and data changed for confidentiality purposes, of course). I should have seen that chart as a red flag and warning sign that I was perhaps not good at dealing with stress, but at the time, I was just glad to turn in the project and go onto something else.
I didn't realize how much I internalized the stress of my job until I had enough perspective and real physical data in the decreased irregular heartbeats to see what was going on internally by taking on such serious cases. I wish that I was heartier and more immune to stress, but I have to accept that in certain areas, I am not. My life's work has been compromised, but I suppose that is what being a realist is about--understanding that although one can have a love and a propensity towards a certain kind of work, that one's body can often dictate what one is able to do. I only wish I had realized it earlier but I guess late is better than never.
Anyone else out there think their job may be contributing to a shorter life span and if so, what do you plan to do about it?