May 5, 2013

Late 2011

I have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression but have told very few people about my diagnosis. I’m not sure why this is to be honest but I feel so low that I have decided to concentrate on getting better first before talking to people about my illness.

Spring/Summer 2012

I start to feel better but am aware of the need to tell more people about my illness especially at work but I still hold back from having the conversation. I think this is because I am worried about what people will think about me and about how my manager will perceive me and whether this will have a negative impact on both my career prospects and my pay at work.

Autumn 2012

I have been successfully referred to a counsellor for CBT but now I need to talk to my manager about my illness, as I will need to take time off work to go for my sessions with my counsellor.

Needless to say, during the time between deciding to have the conversation and actually having it, I become anxious about the conversation and how it would go. However, I have no choice but to have the conversation so as to be able to attend my CBT sessions. I’ll have to tell my manager.

The good thing is, though, that the CBT sessions give me an excuse to raise the subject with my manager but, as you can imagine, I am still feeling pretty nervous when I sit down to talk to him.

I plan the conversation as best I can in my head beforehand but there is such a sense of apprehension that I’m sure when I blurted out the words “I’m suffering from depression and anxiety”, my manager probably had to take a double take to make sure he had heard me right.

Once I utter those words however, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I have now done all I can in this situation by telling my boss what is wrong with me. The ball is now in his court in terms of how he responds and how the conversation goes from here.

The first thing my manager says is that he is surprised as there was nothing obviously wrong with me (I’m sure we’ve all been in the situation where we pretend that everything is okay even when it isn’t). I then take the opportunity to explain a bit more about how I feel and how it affects me at work. In essence, I want to get as much information out there about me in this first meeting so that I can then begin to move on psychologically afterwards. I don’t tell him everything and stick to telling him what I am comfortable with him knowing but the fact that I am having the conversation at all cheers me enormously.

Once I explain to my boss what is going on with me in terms of how I feel and the treatment I am having (I was taking sleeping pills at the time along with anti-depressants), he is extremely supportive. He says I can take time off work for my therapy - he even offers to take me to my first session so that I won’t have to worry about public transport – and says I can take time off if my anxiety became too much. Essentially, he couldn’t have done any more to help me and make me feel comfortable about what I have told him. This means a lot to me, as my anxieties around work were a key driver behind why I became depressed and anxious in the first place. Therefore, by telling ‘work’ what is wrong, I am able to become less anxious overall.

Winter 2012

After our initial conversation, my manager continues to support me and regularly takes time out to ask me how I am. I have now finished my CBT but after each session, I give him a brief update as to how it has gone so that he is fully aware of how I am progressing. This makes it easier for him to manage the business if I have to take time off. This is the sort of thing that my manager appreciates and, in a situation such as this, I feel that it is important to consider the needs of those around you as this will make others more inclined to give you support if and when you need it.

Spring 2013

And that is the story of “my conversation”.

And, I can honestly say that having that conversation was one of the key milestones in my ongoing recovery from mental illness.

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