Depressives & the Workplace.

Mercury is in retrograde, it has been difficult to stay motivated when morale is low in a professional sense, and the great blizzard of 2015 clocked Chicago with nearly 20 inches of snow which forced my office to close for a snow day.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this–I am completely unbalanced and am struggling to find my footing.

For those who don’t follow astrology or know what Mercury in retrograde is, it essentially means “Well, the next two weeks are f*cked.” As someone who is already hypersensitive to other’s emotions, light, sound, etc., my last two weeks have been rough. That’s actually an understatement but it’s all I could come up with. The illusion of Mercury seeming like it is traveling backward causes plans to fall through, prevents us from making an big decisions, and genuinely leaves us feeling exhausted.

There have also been rumblings and a general unsettling feeling at my job. For the last two weeks, I have holed myself up in my office, making very little contact with my colleagues because I have a sneaking suspicion that at any given moment someone is going to throw someone else under the bus. I’d rather just stay to myself when I’m usually an extremely extroverted individual at work. And now, I am running on empty. I come in, look at my email and instantly feel overwhelmed. Waking up to my alarm is a constant struggle. Looking the part of a professional is also difficult for me. I hate sacrificing my individuality for a pair of pants with pleats down the middle. My depression/anxiety levels are only heightened by the lack of role definition, clear instruction, and constant flow of “Does that make sense?”

I’ve felt a disconnect from co-workers before. By nature, I am a loner. I prefer to work under clear deadlines and by myself. I’m not too proud where I won’t ask for help if needed, but I also don’t trust others to get the job done. I want to feel some connection to the people I see Monday through Friday but it isn’t there. And so, I blame my depression once again.

Depression in the workplace is about walking a fine line between “Do I mention it to my supervisor?” and “Do I keep this to myself?” My mom has often told me it’s nobody’s business as long as you’re getting the work done, and I am getting my work done. It’s just about finding the motivation to complete tasks which I find hard to be proud of. Maybe that’s because I’m so hard on myself at times. Maybe it’s because I feel like a misfit, that I relate more to our student interns than actual adults. Maybe it’s because I really don’t love what I do and for me, loving what I do is essential.

I am passionate. I have a vision of where I want to be and putting in the work to get there should be, at times, enjoyable. Instead, I find myself overworked, overlooked, and just over the day when it’s only 10:00 AM. As soon as 5:00 PM hits, I am practically running out of my office and headed to the indoor track or the yoga studio. It is a small euphoria that happens at the end of every work day.

So what to do, what to do? Forbes had an article on Dealing With Depression At Work and deciding whether or not to connect with your supervisor on dealing with mental health issues. The problem is mental health is still such a huge stigma that most people who’ve never experienced it personally don’t fully understand its effects on employees both in and outside of the workplace. And if the relationship you have with your own supervisor isn’t a particularly open one, then going into their office to explain your situation feels all the more daunting. Bottom line: your health is priority number 1, but in a place where you feel like you could be replaced at any given moment, depressives often sacrifice our mental and physical health for a fake smile and “Everything is fine” attitude.

I never wanted my depression to define me or get in the way of my professional life, but the more I understand the way my mind works as a depressive, the more I come to terms with the fact I’ll never be that girl in a suit carrying a briefcase and headed to a board meeting. I wear outfits that are accessorized with vintage belts, multiple rings, Mala beads. I even have a mid-sized Buddha and Christmas lights in my office all year round. I know that way of thinking also comes with a price. I butt heads with higher ups. I prioritize a bit differently than my “normal” colleagues. I procrastinate (a lot) because I work better under pressure. I’ve grown self-aware of my work habits that I can function fine while on the clock, but these habits may look strange to others while these same habits seem perfectly logical to me.

As the week progresses and anxiety starts to build, I contemplate whether having depression in the workplace should be acknowledged by employers or left under the radar. But I know one this is certain–at the rate I’m going, I’m surely headed for burnout.

(Link to art can be found here.)

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8 thoughts on “Depressives & the Workplace.

  1. I wish I could say something concrete to make you feel better. ❤️But I couldn’t think of anything except to say that we are here, and we are listening. 😊

    Also… 20 inches?! That is some serious snowfall! The child in me got extremely excited when you mentioned that, but I’m sure it has a lot of practical drawbacks…

    Hope you feel better soon, Bri ❤️

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  2. I know you’re probably not looking for advice and I really don’t have any other than from past experience I’ve found the less you open up to co-workers, and especially bosses, of a personal nature, the better. Even if it seems right at the time, it always seems to come back in time to haunt you. Since we spend so much of our awake time at work, what happens there seems to take on more importance than is should, unless, of course, you are doing something that could change the world, or at least your corner of it. Even then, though, you need to be selective about who you open up to and just how open you become. Be careful, my friend. It’s a minefield out there.

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    1. Leonard, I completely agree with you. I have strong reservations about opening up to anyone. Ironic since I have a blog! Haha! But in all seriousness, I have a hard time believing that any workplace fully supports mental health and those who struggle with it. Granted, my depression isn’t debilitating by any means, but I occasionally run into a wall. It’s a tricky line to balance on and one on I intend walking on with precision and care. Thank you for your words. We are absolutely in accord with this. I was just curious to see what others would say and if they’ve ever opened up to their superiors/colleagues.

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      1. Well I’ve been open in the past and regret it. I have made very few friends in the workplace. My true friends are all from my college days, and the only ones I made in the workplace were during my bookstore days (but some of those were friends from my MFA program who worked for me and one who was my original partner) and my ELI. Even here I only made two real friends from both colleges I worked at for 5 years and the only real friend I have here in Izmir is my former assistant from my ELI who created this job for me. I’ve mostly encountered jealousy and pettiness at work (especially in the colleges) which stems from some twisted sense of competition on the part of others. I’ve found it is best to keep my inner life to myself at work. Though, like you, I see the irony in that since some people from work read my blog. “You can run, but you can’t hide.” But as my old friend Steve Cohen would say, “If they can’t take a joke, f–k them.”

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      2. It is SO interesting you mention jealousy and pettiness stemming perhaps from competition because I’ve experienced this even with friendships I thought were solid. It almost makes a reclusive life sound ideal. The circle of friends I have now is a tight one, and I’m fortunate to have family that understands me and a mother who is relentless with her ability to listen and let me talk in circles for hours. Haha! And you’re right–I actually hope some people from work read my blog and it instills compassion, If it doesn’t, then I’m all for your friend Steve’s mantra. He sounds like a cool dude.

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