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I took a mental health day from work and lied about it.  Here’s why.

In September, I started to experience anxiety at work. I had a difficult family life, two projects at work were going badly, and my confidence in my skills, abilities and self-esteem were taking a hit.

Thoughts I couldn’t control started to take over my concentration. Bad thoughts. I thought my manager was going to be disappointed. I was going to be angry. I would think I was shit. I thought I was an impostor. How had I managed this job for a year when I was so clearly incapable and stupid?

It wasn’t just a bad day. I was a bad person.

I sat there looking at my computer screen, and from the outside everything looked fine. I read emails, answered requests, answered questions, but inside I was falling apart.

So I told my manager I was sick and went home for the day.

And me was sick, but not the way I told him. I told her I had an upset stomach, had been nauseous all day and thought a cold was going to come. I returned home, removing myself from the situation that was making me anxious and giving me a chance to regroup, snuggle up in my bed for an afternoon, and work through the panic and negative self-persuasion.

I wanted to feel better and return to work the next day fresh and ready to face problems with a clear mind. I wanted to feel good again. Just like I do when I need to recover from a cold.

I lied to my boss because there is an unwarranted stigma around mental illness at work and in general. When a person takes a sick day because of a virus or a cold, their absence is not considered proof that they cannot do their job. No, they are temporarily sick and return to work when they feel better – neither better nor worse at their job than before.

I wanted to feel good again. Just like I do when I need to recover from a cold.

Here’s the thing, though: The same should be said for those living with mental illnesses, but it isn’t.

I don’t want management to think that I am unable to do my job. On the contrary, I am really very good at it. But mental illnesses can have invisible symptoms with no outward signs that you are not getting out of it until, all of a sudden, you are. really not face.

Managers can’t see it coming, and hiring or promoting someone they see as having a “time bomb” in them probably seems like a risky decision over picking someone who doesn’t. bomb inside – which they know of, anyway. This mental illness bomb inside of me isn’t constantly working, however, and when it does start I can – and do have steps taken to turn it off.

But still, the stigma exists. Those of us who are mentally ill are considered weak. And why am I so adamant about it that I feel the need to lie to my employer about it?

Because I experienced the stigma firsthand.

Some time ago, during a contract lasting several months at a former workplace, all managers from different departments spent half a day in a training session on how to support the mental health of their employees. At the time, I was going through a fairly difficult, stressful and embarrassing family situation, so due to the special training my manager had taken, I thought it would be reasonable to let him know about the temporary issues I was having. , as I feared. affected my concentration and my work.

I received the support I needed: if I needed to take a day off to take care of myself, she said, then I should let her know.

At least she noted she would be of great support. But when it came to being really supportive, she didn’t show up.

The stressful and embarrassing family situation came to a head and I thought I was on the verge of breaking down. I felt like I might go crazy because of the stress and anxiety about the impact it was having on my job. I needed a day to pull myself together, sort myself out and pull myself together. I asked a colleague to take care of some work that might need to be done, and she was understanding, more than happy to help me keep my project on track.

My manager, however, was not that understanding. After her previous offer, when it came to taking a sick day, she said she found it inappropriate and unacceptable. And so at work, I felt fragile, a little less than capable, and I was ashamed and anxious that I asked for time off that I thought I had taken in the first place.

Of the four contract employees, I was the only one who admitted some personal difficulties (although I was not the only one struggling) and I was the only one of us whose contract was not renewed. This is a very real result of admitting 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 unfortunately worth it for stability and the pursuit of my career. A person with chronic pain has chronic illness, just like I have chronic depression. But chronic pain is not considered a weakness of character like mental illness. Honestly, I don’t understand.

For me, my mental illness is a strength. Living with depression obscuring my every thought, covering up the emotions so that I don’t feel anything at all, it takes a lot of strength to carry on with this burden. It takes its toll on me, but when I’m able to take care of myself and my mental health, my depression makes me stronger.

My depression makes me more empathetic and compassionate towards others because I know grief and emptiness and I don’t want others to go through it too. My anxiety prepares me; I often think of the worst case scenario, so if that worst case comes along, I know how I’m going to deal with it.

These parts of me make me Well at my work. Not bad. But these strengths are not yet often recognized.

An inability to do your job because you have a cough and a sore throat is considered an inability to work effectively in the short term. No one will remember it in a month. But apologizing for work for a day because you’re in the throes of anxiety and need to step back and control it can affect an employer’s longer-term view of your abilities, though. taking that day means you can get healthy again. again and be better than before.

The stigma is real and undeserved. Mental illness does not define me, and I am stronger than you think. But until managers and employers start treating mental illness in their employees as just as manageable as physiological illness, and not a weakness, I’ll be lying, like so many others.

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