So today I took the plunge and told my employer that I suffer with anxiety.
It wasn’t an easy thing to do and my finger hovered over the ‘send’ button of the email I’d composed for a good ten minutes or so. But I’d had an awful weekend, was currently having an even more awful day at work, and the thought of spending the next day at a training event in London was only adding fuel to the very much raging fire of my anxiety.
Some may ask why I hadn’t declared my mental illness on my application form, or even in my contract documents. Yet whilst I know I suffer with anxiety, it does not define me and it should not be a factor that comes into play when I do go for a job. I – like many others – manage my anxiety every single day and 99% of the time it works just fine. I know what I can and can’t handle, have coping mechanisms when I do start to feel anxious and am very much a believer of self-care.
Yet we all have our bad days and unfortunately we rarely know when they’ll hit. Coming back to the event in London, I was genuinely excited for it. It’s something I’m interested in and it’s a day out of the office. Yet I also needed to admit that my mind and body were not OK enough to spend a day out of their comfort zones. It may have been fine and I may have had a good day; but it may have been awful and I may have spent the whole day wanting to come home.
Anyone who suffers with anxiety knows just how exhausting it is to battle through it when you have to – say you’re at a party or even at work too – and you feel completely deflated when you do eventually ‘escape’. You feel like you need to curl up and sleep for a week. I didn’t fancy going through this again.
I’m not about to start taking every other day off as an ‘anxiety day’ just because my employers now know – and were thankfully more than understanding. But it has certainly put my mind at rest that when I do have a really bad day, I can just say. Anyone that knows me knows how hardworking and ambitious I am – I’m not lazy nor do I want to be. I’m not weak or afraid of my illness, as much as it wants me to be.
Telling someone you don’t fully know about your mental health is scary, especially if that someone/those people also happen to be your ‘superiors’ (for want of a better word). Thankfully, the world is changing. People are more understanding and forgiving when it comes to mental illness and they realise that just because an employee may have something like anxiety or depression, it doesn’t mean they’ll be unreliable or take loads of time of time off.
I told myself one very important last point before I finally sent that email – if these people are going to discriminate me or be angry at me for having a mental illness, then I don’t want to work for them anyway.