I want you to think about the people in your friendship circles, work colleagues, and family members. Statistically one in five will have a mental health issue to some degree. The issues could be an eating disorder, depression, anxiety, bipolar, addiction, post-traumatic stress, OCD, or another one of the many mental illnesses. The point is, mental illness is incredibly common.
My manager knows that I have depression and anxiety. The topic came about when I was spoken to about my attendance. After mumbling something about traffic, I said “let’s be honest here. I couldn’t get out of bed. I am going to tell you something…I have depression and some days are really fucking hard.” He thanked me for telling him, admitted that he did not have much experience with mental illness, and said that the company likely has services through the Employee Assistance Program that can help if I need.
Compassion is exactly how someone should respond when someone tells you that they are struggling, just as my manager did. Unfortunately I know people who have had negative reactions when telling their employer about their mental illness. How would that employer respond if you were diagnosed with Diabetes and had off days when you were having difficulty controlling your blood sugar? With mental illness, we have off days too. With any illness, there will be days that are challenging.
One in five people work with challenging mental health on a daily basis. I’m repeating that statistic because it needs to drilled into society just how common mental illness is.
It can be scary to be authentic especially when you don’t know how other people will react. For me, it was a fight or flight situation that made me open up. I was tired of always running away and letting my depression shape my life. I had enough and I was ready to fight for my future.
Society needs to understand that mental illness is no different than any other illness. I will continue to speak up and advocate for those struggling. Strength has risen from my vulnerability and I have made it part of my life’s mission to beat down the stigma.