For a long time I hid my true self, firstly from myself and then from those I worked with. I work in marketing for a fairly large firm and depression was impacting my ability to do my job. A tight deadline could still get me to do what was required to get by. But the ability to be proactive, to do more than just the minimum was near impossible. With that came great stress and anxiety over how I was being viewed at work. I had a team of 10 to lead and had to hold my own on the companies management team. A year previous these things had seemed easy to me, but they now seemed near impossible.
STOP HIDING FROM YOURSELF
Once I had finally been diagnosed with clinical depression I was in a position to face up to things. However the stigma that surrounds depression, whether self inflicted or external, stopped me from opening up to anyone other than my wife about this. So many of us spend so much energy hiding our true selves from everyone, including (and sometimes most of all) from ourselves. But how can we grow and develop as people if we don’t acknowledge our starting points.
I found I desperately wanted out, I have a family and responsibilities so couldn’t simply quit. But the thought of turning up to work 5 days a week, of facing the challenges, managing the team, being proactive in my approach just seemed impossible. However I knew that logic was playing no part in anything to do with my depression, so I refused to make a major decision on my future. I had no way of knowing if my decision would be correct or wrong, so I held off from doing so.
But things got worse, even with now having a name to put to it, things just spiraled further down. Depression caused me to be ineffectual at my job, which caused major anxiety as to whether I would lose my job, which caused further depression over my self perceived incompetence. On and on this went coupled with the believe that if anyone knew I had depression I would be seen as weak and seen as expendable.
STOP HIDING FROM OTHERS
Eventually as things neared crisis point, I discussed with a close friend at work and the HR assistant who I trusted and was always a good listener with sage advice. This helped a bit, it was a relief to have stopped hiding from a couple of people. I was lucky that their reaction was positive and one of understanding.
However talking to them wasn’t confronting the cause of the anxiety so I still reached desperation point. I needed to confront my boss about the issue. I had reached the make or break point at work. If he thought poorly of me and got rid then at least that part of my hell would be over. Thankfully for me he was sympathetic and understanding. My enormous, crippling, fears before telling him (via e-mail as that was all I could face) were unfounded. As a word of warning, I know people where this went the other way for them so tred carefully before making such a confrontation at work. It is easy to say “you’re better off out of the company now you know what they are like” but in real life it’s not so easy to pay the bills!
STEP TOWARDS RECOVERY
For me, stopping hiding from key people at work was a huge help. It took an enormous weight off my shoulders. I could get back to focusing on my recovery from depression which is a big enough battle on its own.
Even now I wonder if some will judge me for it and wonder if it makes me less effective. Perhaps these are paranoias, however I think they are paranoias we all deal with. Overall my experience at work once I confronted the situation was a positive one. I would always encourage people to not hide as no healing can happen while you are. The harsh reality of the world is that the fear of ‘coming out’ is justified, and only by changing our culture within work can this be improved.