Should I Tell My Boss About My Depression?

For nine years I struggled with depression, resulting in repeated hospitalizations, and scraping by on disability.  Life was bleak and meaningless, but long story short, I recovered enough to return to the workplace.

In the workplace, I was battling depression every so often,  yet managed to hang onto my position for six years without divulging my secret: mental illness.  There still remains a major stigma in the working world and taking a risk to discuss my depression, unquestionably would have cost me my job in the end, and so, I kept my trap shut.

It’s a personal decision, one that you may feel secure revealing, but what about the other person?  Can they be trusted, will they empathize, or will it bite you in the butt for yearly reviews/raise/no raise?

This article in CBC News (health) is interesting pertaining to this topic.
Mental Illness In The Workplace

Other related articles:
Stigma and Mental Illness
Depression:  Have You Ever Felt Handcuffed To Your House?

(edited and reposted)

MENTAL ILLNESS: Should I Apologize for being Depressed?

shutterstock_Quotestrong4-1 (1)

An odd question. However, this thought has crossed my mind countless times over the years, forever questioning what my life would be like without mental illness.

_____________________________________________

Where would you be if it weren’t for mental illness or depression?

In the mid-1990s, mental illness first tossed me into a life of bleak, depressive despair, feeling hopeless and helpless, coupled with hospitalizations, countless medications, and ineffective ECTs.

I found myself apologizing for being ill, but why? Apologizing for an illness?

I felt guilty for my deteriorating attitude, the considerable burden I placed on my husband, absence and imperfection at work and primarily failing myself.  The slightest bit of self-confidence achieved throughout the years coupled with the status at my current job dwindled now appearing threadbare.  I was losing myself.

Depression focusses on the negatives.

For one, I kissed my livelihood goodbye. As a well-paid accounting supervisor, enjoying my job and colleagues, I imagined a lengthy career with this company, but, unfortunately, due to the constant absences caused by the illness and hospitalizations, I had no alternative but to leave my position.

Government disability followed after a lengthy two-year wait.  You discover swiftly how to become thrifty.

Back then, both hubby and I lived on comfortable salaries and jetted off to balmy climates once or twice per year; it was a routine. I was able to afford fashionable apparel, household furniture or other articles on a whim without fussing over budgeting our money. Peculiar how you take vacations for granted, as of today we haven’t been on an actual vacation in almost 20 years. (Not a priority actually).

Positives

Luckily, I worked through some issues in therapy, medication was stabilizing my depressive moods, and I was capable of returning to the working world after nine years absent.

The job I accepted was a call center position (collections), but with a prolonged absence from working for nine years, it was a daunting, rocky road in the beginning.  I was appreciative that this company gave me a chance at employment even with a spotty resume.

I survived six years with this company, only to find myself ill with depression and severe migraines, leaving me with no choice but to accept long-term disability.  But at the same time, I wouldn’t have realized the enormous extent of stigma in the workplace.

I have progressed to the point that I’m no longer hospitalized and can function daily. Extensive psychotherapy has resolved the heaps of painful issues that have been haunting me most of my adult life.

I envisioned participation in the writing field in some capacity. It has forever been a passion of mine since I was a child, jotting daily in my diaries.

It’s doubtful I would have been invited to appear on a radio show, speaking engagements, ghostwritten articles for other bloggers, or requested articles as a guest writer discussing mental health, depression, bipolar, etc.

I also wouldn’t have this fantastic blog (since 2007) that has allowed me to express my feelings about my experience struggling with PTSD and depression.

If not for mental illness, I’m uncertain I would be the compassionate, understanding, and accepting person that I am towards others now. I have enormous patience when speaking with anyone struggling with mental illness or other invisible illnesses. Also, a thirst for knowledge on subjects related to medical information, and if not afflicted, I may not have researched.

I continue to struggle with depression on an odd day with frustration, regrets, and tears – but that’s not unexpected, I suppose. We’re courageous, but must forge onward, and be strong.

We’re in this together, you and I, and we must never apologize for our illness.

(edited and reposted)

Written and copyrighted by Deb McCarthy/2019

 

Stigma Quote

Mental illness stigma cherished79.com

I had to write this quote as it reminded me of a relative who visited me in the hospital.  Perhaps she assumed I lost my marbles along with the depression?  Perfect example of stigma.

Featured

STIGMA – And Mental Illness

What is stigma?

When someone appears to be different than us, we may view him or her in a negative stereotyped manner.  People who have identities that society values negatively are said to be stigmatized.

Stigma is a reality for people with a mental illness, and they report that how others judge them is one of their greatest barriers to a complete and satisfying life.  Society feels uncomfortable about mental illness. It is not seen like other illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.

Continue reading “STIGMA – And Mental Illness”

Why doesn’t she just leave him?

Really?  And women should just up and leave an abusive relationship; as if it were that easy.

‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’ is a timeworn question about women trapped in relationships that are physically and/or emotionally abusive to them.  Economic dependence is clearly part of the story — many women lack the financial means to leave and find themselves trapped by both poverty and abuse.

Of the women who do attempt to escape the abuse, some opt to petition a judge for a civil restraining order, also called a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order, for protection from abuse, harassment, threats, or intimidation. Research shows that PFAs can promote women’s safety and help women manage the threat of abuse.

Continue reading “Why doesn’t she just leave him?”

Bipolar Disorder – Just The Facts

In my opinion, for years now, whenever bipolar disorder is revealed on social media it relates to some heinous, horrid crime. Mass shootings or some horrific crime such as a vicious assault, or violent murders.  Less often is anything else said about bipolar, such as research or how the average person struggling with this disorder lives.

No surprise there is a stigma with mental illness, let alone bipolar disorder or depression.  I was diagnosed with BP in the late 1990’s due to a few hypomanic episodes, however, my history shows I’m usually in the “basement”, staggering through the muck, fighting depression.  I wonder how thorough that test was for the doctor to diagnose me as Bipolar?For me, it’s a label, but I hate to even divulge I have BP.  Shame really….imagine being ashamed of an illness?

Written and copyrighted by Deb McCarthy/2017

Judgment: And you’re so perfect?

Who am I to judge you? Who are you to judge me?

Dictionary: Judgement: the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, esp. in matters affecting action; good sense; discretion: a man of sound judgment.

Stigma: a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one’s reputation; a mental or physical mark that is characteristic of a defect or disease: the stigmata of leprosy.

__________________________________________________________

In my opinion, judgment intertwines with stigma. Why do we judge?

I have voiced previously about encounters with both judgment and stigma, however, this is an example of stigma from a family member. Not long after my hospitalizations years ago with major depression, my brother-in-law severed ties with my spouse and me fearing for his children (or so he claimed). I really questioned at times if he believed I was going to attack him with a knife!

Continue reading “Judgment: And you’re so perfect?”

Imagine asking: Are you even trying to get better?

What kind of question is that? Who would ask someone that? Mental illness stigma at it’s best.

There are still so many comments made by society concerning mental illness, striking close to home with me and my struggles with depression.

Dusting off some old journals, back from my days in the hospital, I came across one stay where I “interviewed” informally some fellow patients enduring their experiences. While there were many more stories; I only selected these three:

These are samples of mental illness stigma and what society perceives.

~~~

*Denise in her early ‘20’s gave a rather heartrending account of an outing just that evening with her mother.

Denise’s mother picked her up from the hospital for dinner at a mid-priced restaurant. It was trivial talk mostly, due to the fact that she had just undergone an ECT the day prior and depression was relentless. After dinner, they both drove to the mall where they shopped for a new outfit, but it was on the drive home that anger and that feeling of failure set in.

Continue reading “Imagine asking: Are you even trying to get better?”

The Lady Found in the Snow

She was in her fifties and reported missing four or five days ago, a picture of a woman looking cheerful, with striking blue eyes, shoulder length light brown hair wearing a black and green mid-length parka. It was on the news and in the newspapers repeatedly, her picture of a woman with a warm smile.

To me it sounded peculiar, as if intentional or planned; waking in the morning, followed by calling in sick to work then vanishing. When reported missing, the police were summoned, then several friends and relatives began searching also. The investigation dragged on with no success, and it’s as if she went ‘poof’ into thin air, no trace, no use of credit cards.

Days passed, when someone identified her van at a cemetery, and not too distant from the van they discovered her body dead in the snow. The police didn’t reveal information as to the cause of death.

The newspapers stated that she was a registered nurse, worked for twenty-two years at the same hospital, extremely well liked and exceptional at her job. Her spouse was a clergy at the only church in the town where the family lived, and she leaves behind two children.

Continue reading “The Lady Found in the Snow”

Why I Created “Living in Stigma” and 9 Ways We Need To Stop Mental Illness Stigma

stigma_2

When I activated my first blog in 2005, it focused on humorous articles only.  During that time I was struggling with major depression, yet amazingly I was competent enough to write posts, and surprisingly these articles were a remarkable success.

I continued on and gathered many followers, all the time questioning whether to write about my mental illness, yet frankly, I was very embarrassed and uncomfortable to share my thoughts and life of hell with any of my blogging buddies, the blogging world, or should if anyone in my circle of “personal people” were ever to uncover my ‘secret’, I’d be devastated.

I eventually mentioned it to two trusted blogging friends my apprehension, and them replying, “why are you so embarrassed, it not your fault you were ill, write about it, who cares if people don’t like it, go by ‘anonymous’, not using your real name this time”.  And so I did, in 2007, I began this blog.  It’s been an enormous success from day one, with so much support from the blogging community and it was the stigma that held me back from starting this blog sooner.

I was living in stigma (shame) thus the name “Living in Stigma” –Deb

~~~~

Continue reading “Why I Created “Living in Stigma” and 9 Ways We Need To Stop Mental Illness Stigma”

SUICIDE: THE TABOO WORD

Suicide: definition…is an act of willfully ending one’s life.

Males die much more often than females by suicide, while females attempt suicide more often. U.S. Caucasians commit suicide more often than African Americans do.
People commit suicide more often during spring and summer.

Suicidal ideation produces the perilous side of mental illness, acting as both a friend and seducer. Even though thoughts of dying encapsulate our mind on one hand, we yearn to remain living on the other. We desire just to feel better.

Continue reading “SUICIDE: THE TABOO WORD”

Fibromyalgia ~ This image just about says it all

There’s even a misunderstanding with the chronic pain people endure due to fibromyalgia, some people don’t see it as a disability.

Be kind, don’t judge.

Brown Bagging It (part 1)

Mental Illness and Work

 When discussing mental illness and work, “work” can mean a number of things.

 It can mean the workplace, as in where we go to do our jobs. It can also mean the act of working, what we do at our jobs, as a volunteer in the community, or what we like to do in the garden, kitchen or workshop to relax.

The relationship between mental illness and work can be looked at in a number of different ways, including:

 ·         the stresses and strains today’s workplace places on us

 ·         the incredible pressure placed upon people to continue to perform at work when an illness strikes, and the extra strain this places on their families and friends;

  ·         the difficult barriers those persons diagnosed with a mental illness face in the working world;

  ·         the strain encountered by people who work while they care for someone with a mental illness at home;

  ·         the therapeutic role the act of work plays in helping to reduce stress and improve mental health; and the benefits work can bring in guiding people diagnosed with a mental illness toward recovery, rebuilding their self-esteem and hopefully returning to the jobs they left when the illness struck

 Mental Illness in the Workplace

 Of all persons with disabilities, those with a mental illness face the highest degree of stigmatization in the workplace and the greatest barriers to employment opportunities.  Persons diagnosed with a mental illness are more likely to experience long term unemployment, underemployment and dependency on social assistance.

 Many employers and employees have unwarranted fears and see persons with psychiatric disabilities as unskilled, unproductive, unreliable, violent or unable to handle workplace pressures.  This stigma creates climate in which someone who has a problem and needs help may not seek it for fear of being labeled. 

  Undiagnosed mental illness also has a high cost in the workplace. If left undetected, overall work quality and productivity can be affected by an ill employee’s misunderstood behavior. Mental illnesses and the fact that they can be successfully treated must be understood by employers.  Only then can they begin to recognize and accept the symptoms of a true condition and know how to establish an internal management program to accommodate their employees.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

MY STORY:

Ten years of ping-ponging between home and hospitals, untreatable bipolar disorder and with life heading nowhere, my luck changed after a new psychiatrist entered my life. With correct meds finally, and great encouragement I began to take two steps forward.

I followed all of this doctor’s directions; volunteering, participating in the out-patient occupational therapy program, taking meds as prescribed, and finally I was on my way to wellness.  Moods were reasonably stable and I wanted to return to the workplace (this was 2005).  My dilemma though found me with limited computer skills caused by years of unemployment, non-usage of computers and coupled by memory loss from ECT.

My psychiatrist though, advised only returning part-time, but my bull-headed nature had me applying for full-time positions.  Tenacity prevailed with the computers; working daily on my typing skills, escalating my speed and relearning the computer programs.  I dejectedly sat back at times, recollecting when I used to instruct computers at my office prior to becoming ill and ending my career.  But, I regained the skills and thought I was finally ready.

At the outset, I had a spotty resume caused by years of illness.  Using my volunteer work, as well as, a short stint with self-employment, filled in the ‘experience’ section of my mottled resume, which began looking presentable.  Next came the job hunt.  I always felt, the search for a job is far more problematical than performing the job itself.

To be continued……. (stay tuned for part 2) 

Brown Bagging It (part 2) – The Long Awaited Interview

Part 2 – The Interview

In Part 1, I discussed Mental Illness and Work and Mental Illness in the Workplace.  Also, discussed was my experience reentering the workplace (in 2005) after many, many years of illness – mental illness.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So I had my polished resume in hand and now I was prepared for the next step.  This was comparable to waiting at the bus stop…for the bus.

How times have changed compared to years gone by.  I’m ageing myself, but way back when, the procedure in my city entailed catching the bus downtown to Manpower on a Monday morning and scouring their job boards.  Once an enticing ad placed on a recipe sized card was found, you presented it to the recruiter who in turn would with any luck forward your name along to the prospective employer.  Nowadays, everything is so much easier; sending resume with cover letters via electronic mail.  Speaking of which, that was another aspect of the computer I had to get the handle on; e-mail and the cut/copy paste method.

I was essentially new at this job search, and concentrated my efforts on the personnel agencies and employment internet sites such as: monster.ca and workopolis.com.

Months of e-mailing, telephone calls and mainly waiting for ‘that call’, at last paid off. I received ‘that call’, but yet felt frozen facing an actual interview.  Years had passed since an interview was necessary of me, only that of doctors requesting information on my well being in hospital.

Continue reading “Brown Bagging It (part 2) – The Long Awaited Interview”

Brown Bagging It (part 3) – Getting the Job & Landing on My Ass

In Part 1 & 2 – I spoke about Mental Illness in the Workplace, seeking employment, the job hunt and the job interview.  Now comes the really difficult part…..THE JOB.

I was so excited by this new venture; I could hardly sleep at night waiting for the first day.  That ‘first day of school’ feeling.  Luckily, the dress code was business casual otherwise I would have had to purchase an entire wardrobe.   Training would begin at 7:00 a.m., which practically killed me getting up that early in the morning, but I knew I had to get used to this.

The first day was a disaster, as it was essential to become accustomed to their internal computer system, and I sat in confusion having problems with straightforward tasks such as passwords and locating screens.  A panic situation ensued immediately, causing me to actually vomit in the washroom for the first three days due to this.  My thinking pattern was in a ‘frozen’ mode, with no new information able to funnel through.

On one day in particular, I was actually in tears in the washroom, so completely frustrated and angry at myself for not grasping anything.  Why did I continue?  I didn’t want to be a failure again, I suppose, and thought if I failed at this – where would I be then.  So I plodded on. 

The remaining two weeks met with more perplexity, and slowly my self-confidence, self-esteem and self-doubt tumbled downward even further.  I was the slowest and oldest in the class. But, I forged ahead, bull-headed, passed and began the position.

 The position itself was not too difficult, however, I encountered problems with their computer system practically every shift.  The Help Desk was there for Q & A, but after awhile they tired of my Q & A and became unfriendly and not very “helpful”. The position was in sales and customer service.  I was to learn a script to implement during a customer’s call – this was an impossible task.  My memory is impaired at best, never mind learning a script for sales on the phone.  So I basically read verbatim, and though it may have sounded as if I was reading from a sheet, it seemed to go over ok.  My stats weren’t wonderful; yet they weren’t the worst either.  That was another thing; I had to worry now about stats.  People were counting on me; managers, their managers and so forth, for stats. I had to produce good stats so my manager looked good.  The everyday routine felt so bizarre after years of illness at home and in hospital.

Enjoying the job to a degree, I was discontented with management and other factors played, and so, unfortunately after three months I discovered this job just wasn’t for me.

My stomach did flip-flops over this.  I was frightened to quit this position, yet I was unhappy there also.  The job did provide some experience into the working world, brushing up on computer skills (will always have trouble), day-to-day routine and learning how to mix with people again.  I could have given up at this point – but didn’t.

Now the time came for my search for greener pastures.

To be continued……….(see last part 4)

Brown Bagging It (part 4) – Keeping the Job – Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches

In Part 1, 2, 3 – I spoke about Mental Illness in the Workplace, Seeking Employment, the Job Hunt, The Interview, Looking for a Job, now part 4.

 

I was sort of in a quandary and very nervous; do I seek further employment or take some time off.  It was November of 2005, and pdoc and my husband were in cahoots, both advising me to wait until after Christmas.  But, I resisted and applied for some positions.

There was a hiring blitz at two financial institutions and I e-mailed my resume.  One never called, the other phoned the next day and an interview set up the following afternoon.  I wondered what was happening here, and surmised that having the last position’s experience counted for something on the resume – perhaps all of that turmoil was possibly worth it.

The interview went smooth, the manager pleasant, no tests and they advised me “we will let you know by next week”.  I thought “I’ve heard that before”, but by the next afternoon – I HAD THE JOB.  Wow, I was to start in two weeks – but….there was a two week training session to be completed first.  My heart sank.  Here we go again.

The training session was taxing, but this time around, I wasn’t filled with as much panic.  As usual though, adapting to their computer system was again complicated for me to grasp.  Also, learning their policies and procedures also presented somewhat of a challenge, and at the end of the two week session, a quiz was necessary.  I froze at the very mention of a ‘quiz’, failed the first time out, re-wrote and passed.

The monthly reviews I dread so much though; always expecting the negative, and ultimately surprised by the positive.  I feel sometimes like a little kid waiting for a pat on the head saying “good girl, you did a good job”.  Self-confidence and self-esteem have returned to some degree, but I’m still working on it.  I am meeting company stats and competing with the younger folk there – I’m in the running every month.  Depression leaves a scar, but I have learned that a scar can fade.

I do not share my past with co-workers, due to the fact of **stigma.  I recognize I would be treated in a different way, as the general public does not comprehend mental illness.  In secret, I wish my co-workers/management to be acquainted with my triumph.  Existing under a veil of blackness for so many years, then at last standing upright and functioning in the ‘working world’, I feel,  is something of a phenomenon.  I do experience a sensation of gratefulness for this company, as they took a risk hiring me with a resume packed with holes.  They apparently saw the potential I forgot I possessed.

So there are steps: having the strength in preparing to look for a job; the job hunt; the interview; landing the job and most of all keeping the job.  Every step is a difficult step.