The most difficult thing with having depression as an adult is that you are still expected to behave as an adult, with all the duties, responsibilities and obligations of being an adult.
There are people depending on you, your boss, your kids, your spouse, and your pets. Even in your darkness, with uncontrollable tears ready to spill over at the smallest bump in the road, work still needs to be completed, deadlines still have to be met, bills still need to be paid, and the bacon still needs to be brought home.
No matter how much you just want to hide away in some dark corner, curl up within yourself and bawl your heart out, you still have a job to do.
Your attendance and productivity are non-negotiable expectations of you at work.
You need the money? You need your job?
Rare it is for those of us who don’t need these essentials of modern living.
Your boss has their responsibilities too. The company does not owe you anything more than your paycheck, and you do not owe them more than what they pay you for. Your job is a financial transaction, between you and the company you work for.
You, the employee, are paid monies in exchange for your time, and what you produce for your employer.
Keep this in mind and do not make the mistake of thinking that they care about your mental health, because they really do not care other than how it would affect their bottom line.
Even the best managers, or even if your manager is your best friend, they still have a business to run, clients to service, revenue to generate, deadlines to meet, and a boss that they themselves must report to as well.
Everyone has a boss that they have to ultimately report to.
At the end of the day, your boss gets to go home, to their families and their own life. They may be as empathetic as can be, but they must do what is best for their own livelihood, for their own job security, and that is to look out for the company’s interest. This may seem cold and cynical, but it is the truth. There is no room in an organization for an employee who does not produce, does not fit in, or is a drain on company resources.
A wonderful colleague at work once told me, referring to our manager;
“Betty does what’s best for Betty, you, Sandy have to do what is best for Sandy”.
You must do what is in the best interest of you, because you are your best and biggest advocate.
Stay professional. Maintain your professional reputation, and take the time you need to regroup. The last thing you need at this point is to have a meltdown at work. Your mental health is paramount to everything else.
You work to live, not the other way around.
If you do not resolve your situation first, then the situation may be resolved for you (by you being relieved of your position), and that will bring you down even further.
Here are some tips that may help you to regroup.
1. Get help
If you are feeling so overwhelmed that you cannot cope by yourself, it’s time to ask for help from a professional source. Speak with your doctor or medical professional for a diagnosis, and explore your treatment options. There could be answers to address your physical symptoms as well as your emotional and psychological well-being. You may need therapy, counselling, prescriptions or a combination of approaches to help you heal.
There may also be help and resources readily available through your human resources department, such as the Employee Assistance Program. The main thing is to ask for help. If you don’t get help the first time, keep asking. Help is available.
Taking care of yourself is more than indulging in a soothing bath or spoiling yourself with a mani-pedi (I am not saying those aren’t awesome, love them myself). Taking care of yourself is giving yourself everything that your mind, body and spirit needs and deserves in order to be well and to thrive.
If you need to see the doctor (or medical professional), then take the time to see your doctor, therapist or counsellor.
If you need to take a period of time away from work, then ask for that time. Recent studies published by the University of Melbourne found that employees who continued to work even as they experienced depression symptoms, realized positive health benefits towards their recovery. That being said, your doctor can help you determine if you need time away from work.
Your well-being is paramount to all else in your life. Your work will always be there. That urgent matter on your desk is not a life or death situation (unless it literally is because you are a life-saving surgeon or some such, even then, there is an on-call to take it on). Money can always be made, another job can always be found, but your health is your life. Your mental-health is the internal world in which you exist. It must stand head and shoulders above all else. Otherwise you could begin to feel that your world is not worth the effort, and that feeling can lead to the ultimate darkness, suicide.
Once you have established a plan of action with your medical professional, stay the course. It may be difficult to remember or keep your medical appointments, therapy sessions, take your medications and adhere to your treatment plan, but you must. Treatment will get you better.
Focus and concentration will be a challenge. This is a common symptom of depression. Making lists of your to do’s are essential in keeping you on the move. Having a check mark to show for completed tasks, no matter how small the task, will help you to keep move forward. Making lists also helps to break down all your tasks, and show you what you need to do. It can help you to feel less overwhelmed by all that you need to do. It gives you a place to start and prevent you from feeling paralyzed. Even if everything on the list doesn’t get done, you will have still made progress.
5. Take breaks
Take your breaks, to stretch your legs and increase your circulation, to nourish your body and eat your lunch, to walk away from your work station and just allow yourself to rest. This will help in preventing your mind from fatigue at this point in your healing. Give your brain a quick break. Studies have shown that taking breaks can decrease stress hormones, and raise dopamine levels. This will help you to be more productive and manage your stress.
6. Find support
Find support, if you are not comfortable speaking with a colleague about your situation, make sure you have support in friends or family. The feelings that you are experiencing have to go somewhere, it is best that they have a safe place to be released. If you are unable to find a safe place to release your pain, there are crisis hotlines set up exactly for this purpose. Find out the nearest hotline available in your location, and keep it readily accessible. You never know when you will need it. Suffering in silence will not help you get better.
There are no quick fixes for depression. Medications take at least two weeks to take effect. Counselling and therapies may take months or years for you to feel the effects of healing.
Be patient. Be kind to yourself and never give up. You are worthy.
May the light always shine for you.
Photo credits: Sandi Yee