How I opened up about my depression at work and made a difference at my workplace
I had been battling depression for a long time since my divorce. As rewarding as it was to raise my kid, doing everything alone was not easy. Things really took a turn for the worse when my mother passed away.
Needless to say, my job suffered too and I went through workplace depression and anxiety. As much as I would have liked to take a break from it all, the financial reality would not let me, so there was only one road ahead of me.
This is my story of how I opened up about my depression at work and the huge difference it made…
Kiran Chug, Software Professional
What triggered it
Still not recovered from my mother’s demise, I was plagued with suicidal thoughts. When the flow of emotions overpowered me to a suffocating extent, I decided to end it all.
So I headed to the nearest medical store, bought a razor and locked myself in the office bathroom. When I was about to slit my hand, the image of my daughter came to mind and I burst out into tears.
By some weird telepathy, my psychotherapist had called and I quickly fixed up an appointment. That was a turning point for me where I knew that things simply had to change.
How I worked around it
It is important to be aware if one’s company has any depression workplace laws.
Here is how I look at it, if I am able to take sick leaves for a body ailment, then why should I not be entitled to rest and recuperation when it comes to the matters of the mind and heart?
That was an argument that laid in front of both my HR and boss and thankfully they saw the sense in it too.
Step 1: Getting a letter from my psychotherapist
I first approached my counsellor and asked how I can work around the situation. She gave me a letter stating that while I am in a mentally capable to carry on with my work, I need some time and modifications in my environment for treatment and recuperation.
This she ensured would not only help in my well-being but also soar my productivity levels at the office. The therapist was also kind enough to say that she would also call if it came down to it.
Step 2: Talking to the HR
The next step was to confide with the HR regarding my situation. I must say, it took me a great amount of courage to go ahead with it. So I pinged the man in charge and said it was an important matter that would take up some of his time.
Once there, I started off by saying how much I value my role in the organisation and respect the policies. Then, I confided a little about my battle with depression and how it was affecting me (not too elaborately as there was my shrink for that).
I also relevaled the letter from my psychotherapist and showed him workplace depression statistics.
Step 3: Sitting with the boss and educating him about my condition
Taking a similar approach, I asked my boss for a suitable time to speak to him at length. When he was relatively free, I approached him.
First, I honestly spoke about my great reverence for him as a boss and then went on to my condition. I did not rattle off into a sob story but stated not in so many details about my depression and how it had worsened condition due to my mother’s death.
Naturally, he had seen a dip in my performance but thankfully did not want to lose me as an employee. There were times when I had done exceptionally well. I told him that I am truly dedicated towards my work but my depression and anxiety symptoms have aggravated to the point that I cannot ignore them.
I did not reveal my suicidal stunt or my history of depression, but just that some adjustments were required. He seemed empathetic.
Step 4: Coming up with an arrangement that works best for all
Once both the HR and boss understood where I was coming from, they agreed to make some adjustments to make the work atmosphere more conducive for my recovery.
I was allowed to take 10 days off to gather my strength, post which, flexible timings were promised. In this manner, if my symptoms escalated, I could leave for home or visit my counsellor, no questions asked.
From my end, I had to ensure that the weekly targets were completed and work was effectively delegated so that everything ran in a seamless manner.
They both seemed keen to prevent workplace depression too. Circulars and emails on workplace depression and harassment were sent out to educate those in need.
Keeping the bargain from my end
As the company was generous enough towards me, I made sure to keep my end of the bargain and not take advantage of the situation. There was never any issue with my weekly targets and I tried to keep to routine as much as I could. Of course, my mental health was always given a priority through it all.
What I choose to ignore
All was not rosy as there were some ‘mean girls’ who thought that I was being unnecessarily favoured. There were some unwanted comments passed around too. I obviously choose to ignore it. There was only a handful of them who knew my true situation and that was enough.
It does not matter what everybody around you thinks as long as the main people concerned are aware and you are doing to your best capacity in the given situation.
Many-a-times the hardest thing to do is be honest about a situation. But often, that is the only way to get through. Depression has come in the way of so many of our careers. In my case, I was lucky enough to recover while keeping my job too!