January 9, 2013

How do you explain to someone, who isn’t sympathetic at the best of times, that there’s an emotional force field keeping you inside your house?

When I started at my current job, around three years ago, I disclosed my mental health history because I didn’t want it to sneak up and bite me in the backside like it has in the past.

There seemed to be no issues with it at all and for the first year everything went smoothly. Then some of my old problems crept up (aided by some particularly stressful situations at work) and I ended taking time off here and there. However, I was my own worst enemy: those days when I couldn’t face even getting out of bed I called in with “flu” or a “virus”, not admitting my real problems.

After all, how do you tell your manager that you can’t work today because you’re depressed? How do you explain to someone, who isn’t sympathetic at the best of times, that there’s an emotional force field keeping you inside your house?

If I'd been honest would management be more lenient?

After around two years of random absences I’m on my final warning. At my last Sickness Absence Review I explained that I’m currently having a lot of problems and am receiving help from the local mental health team but these were brushed aside because none of the reasons for my days off were down to “mental health”.

I am now struggling to make it into work on a daily basis but I just can’t call in sick. If I’d just been honest then maybe management would be more lenient?

My biggest fear was the reaction of my bosses to my depression

Lying about things definitely makes it worse. It drills a hole that gets bigger and bigger and just can’t be covered up by more lies. I still don’t fully understand why I lied in the first place. I guess the embarrassment and shame of admitting that I couldn’t cope was a big reason but I think my biggest fear was the reaction of the bosses at work.

I had no idea what they’d say or do in my circumstances. I know for certain that the return-to-work forms we use after absences aren’t created with mental illness in mind; you need to be able to put something physical on them. The only part that might seem relevant is the tick box that asks if you’re stressed! It’s like they acknowledge that stress is an actual condition but they don’t want to address it in any way. Unless it’s work-related, in which case they’ll suggest the job isn’t for you anymore.

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