I spent a good portion of my life struggling on my own; knowing something was “different” about me but I never had the support to help me get answers. Walking around aimlessly, I lived off of Google’s suggestions and explanations about how I was feeling for the most part.
As an adult, I entered the workplace and I still felt the need to keep what was going on with me as a secret. Not only at work, but even in my personal life and in my relationships with others. I believed it was my problem and no one else, and I believed that it was up to me to fix but to do so quietly.
A few years passed, and I eventually decided I would start to admit that I was dealing with mental illness and be more open about it. I was tired of hiding parts of me that make me who I am.
It started with me just explaining to my boss at the time that I have severe anxiety on occasion, and sometimes he may notice me getting up a few extra times in a day and that is why. I said I was “just explaining” but it was not that easy, it was terrifying. I was afraid of being judged, I was afraid of being fired, and a lot of other things. The result was: he understood. He told me he appreciated my honesty and that it would be fine if I needed some extra breaks.
As stressful as that was, it was a huge relief. I slowly started to become a little more open over time about my struggles. Mostly mentioning the anxiety and keeping the depressive episodes to myself. I made connections with others in the office.
What I found to be the case most of the time was that others never would have suspected. All of this was fine and good, almost a compliment, but it did not change how I felt. It mostly reminded me how well I had gotten over the years of acting like everything was fine. Seems familiar, doesn’t it?
From that point on, things kind of started to change drastically and in ways that I never would have ever suspected. I started to find my family. I also discovered that my coworkers had my back and that I could go to them if I needed anything. Being honest about what I was struggling with has given me a freedom I never expected. I don’t feel like I have to hide and I don’t look at a room full of people and think I’m alone in the world. I know that the support is there when I need it, or just the understanding.
They know me for who I am outside my mental illness, but they are also aware that there are things inside of me that I fight against on a daily basis. There is no expectation to share the “dirty” details of the dark days or even nights. If you are like me, your symptoms are never really the same. I have different combinations on different days. It is hard for me to keep up with them, let alone expect others to do so as well. I don’t have to walk around the office and announce to everyone what’s going on with me, obviously, but a simple “I’m having a bad day” note to my boss goes a long way.
In February 2020, I found out just how important it was that I was being open about my struggles and it is something that I believe saved my life. Check out Episode One of “That Day”.