In September, I began to buzz with fear at work. I had a hard home life, two projects at work went awry, and my confidence in my abilities, abilities, and self-esteem hit me completely.
Thoughts that I could not control began to take over my concentration. Bad thoughts. Thoughts that my manager would be disappointed. Would get angry. I would think I was an idiot. Thought that I was cheating. How had I been doing this job successfully for a year when I was clearly incompetent and an idiot?
It was not a bad day. I was a bad person.
I sat and stared at my computer screen, and everything looked good on the outside. I read e-mails, answered questions, answered questions, but inside I melted down.
So I told my manager I was sick and I went home for the day.
And I was ill but not as I told her. I told her I had an upset stomach, I felt bad all day and thought a cold would come. I went home, moved away from the situation that frightened me into a spiral, and gave myself the opportunity to regroup, curl up in bed for an afternoon, overcome the panic and the negative self-talk.
I wanted to feel better and go to work the next day to tackle the issues with a clear mind. I wanted to feel good again. That's exactly what I do when I have to recover from a cold.
I lied to my boss because there is an unjustified stigma surrounding mental illness in the workplace and in general. If someone gets sick because of a virus or a cold, his absence is not proof that he can not do his job. No, they are temporarily ill and return to work when they feel better ̵
I wanted to feel good again. That's exactly what I do when I have to recover from a cold.
Here's the point: the same should be said for people with mental illness, but that's not the case.
Not me I want management to think that I can not do my job. On the contrary, I'm really good at it. But mental illnesses can have invisible symptoms without any external signs that you can not cope until you suddenly really can not cope.
The managers can not see it coming and hiring or promoting someone Feeling they have a "ticking time bomb" in them seems like a risky move compared to someone who does not have a bomb in them – what they know anyway. However, this mental illness bomb in me does not tick constantly, and when it starts, I can and can take steps to disable it.
Nevertheless, the stigma exists. Those of us with mental illness are considered weak. And why am I so stubborn that I feel the need to lie to my employer about it?
Because I experienced the stigma first-hand.
Some time ago I had a contract of several months at an earlier workplace, all managers of different departments spent half a day in a training session to support the mental health of their employees. At that time, I was living through a rather rough, exhausting and distracting domestic situation. Due to the special training that my manager had completed, I thought it would be sensible to inform them about the temporary issues that I had, as I feared influenced my concentration and work.
I received the support I needed: If at some point I had to take off to take care of myself, she said, then I should let her know.
At least she said she would be supportive. But when it came to being really supportive, she did not appear.
The stressful and distracting domestic situation came to a head, and I thought I would be close to it. I felt like I was going crazy with the stress and fear of the impact it had on my job. It took me one day to pull myself together, sort out a few things and regroup. I arranged for a colleague to do some work that might have to be done, and she was sympathetic to being more than happy to keep my project on track.
My manager, however, was not so understanding. After her previous offer, when it was actually about to take a sick day, she said she found it inappropriate and unacceptable. And so I went to work – I felt fragile, felt a little less than empowered, and was ashamed of having requested a break that I thought would have been accepted.
Of four contract employees, I was the only one who had admitted to some personal struggles (though I was not the only one to fight) and the only one of us whose contract was not renewed. It is a very real result of the admission of poor mental health.
My mental illness is a strength. These parts of me make me really good at my job.
So I learned to lie. Lying increases anxiety in the short term, but is absolutely worth it for the stability and continuation of my career. A person with chronic pain has a chronic illness, just like me with chronic depression. However, chronic pain is not considered a weakness of character, as it is in a mental illness. I honestly do not understand it.
For me, my mental illness is a strength. I live with depressions that cloud my every thought, contain emotions so that I can not feel anything. It's a burden on me, but if I can take care of myself and my mental health, my depression will make me stronger.
My depression makes me more compassionate and compassionate for others because I know the grief and the void I do not want others to go through it as well. My fear makes me ready; I often think of the worst scenario. So when the worst case occurs, I know how to handle it.
These parts of me actually make good in my work. Not bad. However, these strengths are still not recognized.
The inability to do your job because you have a cough and sore throat is considered an inability to work effectively in the short term. Nobody will remember it in a month. But if you apologize for a day's work because you're scared and need to step back to keep track of what's going on, it can affect your employer's long-term view of your abilities, even if that day means you're getting well can be back and be better than before.
The stigma is real and undeserved. Mental illness does not define me and I am stronger than people credit me with. But before managers and employers begin to treat mental illness in their employees as well as physiological illnesses and no weakness, I will lie and so many others too.
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