Why I’ve Hidden My Mental Illness in the Workplace (For Now)

Most folks I work with know I suffered a tear to my proper anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in July 2020 and had reconstruction surgical procedure. I welcomed questions on my restoration course of from curious coworkers and brazenly admitted when my bodily situation inhibited my capability to carry out sure duties.

What they don’t know, and what I nonetheless can’t bear to inform them, is that I’ve suffered from psychological sickness since childhood and have spent the final ten years medicated and lots of of these years in remedy. I’ve bipolar dysfunction, despair, and anxiousness dysfunction, and I’ve by no means admitted it publicly…till I wrote a ebook about it.  

Having psychological sickness whereas “faking fine” in the office is a lonely endeavor. I’d say there’s no disgrace in admitting to having psychological sickness, but I’ve hidden it from most individuals I do know personally and professionally. I even prop up my capability to deal with psychological well being points and a traditional life in my ebook: “I’m a high-functioning crazy.”

Am I a psychological well being hypocrite who’s holding a secret? Am I being paranoid about an issue that doesn’t exist?

The factor is the downside does exist. The American work tradition just isn’t very pleasant to anybody’s psychological well being, no matter a identified situation or not. “Busy” appears to be the solely acceptable reply to “How’s it going?” We’re praised for our onerous work, however the second we waver, our competence comes into query. Being lower than good is blood in the water.

I’ve heard jokes about Xanax, Prozac, and psych wards for years, and I’ve bitten my tongue whereas I cringed inside. The one time I expressed to a supervisor I used to be feeling overwhelmed with a workload that appeared unreasonable, he coldly responded that I stated I might deal with “work like this” once I interviewed and must be dwelling as much as my promise. I’ve lengthy since modified managers, however after that dismissal of my emotions, I’ve been very hesitant to confess once I’m confused or overwhelmed.

I can’t say I’m a wholly helpless sufferer of the system, although. I’ve at all times been pushed by a necessity for monetary stability and safety, and that has overruled the instances my psychological sickness was roaring uncontrolled or at the very least inflicting me to have a string of unhealthy days.

At its deepest core, I’m afraid coming clear about my psychological well being will have an effect on my livelihood. How would I pay my payments if I have been in a psychological hospital or not working for an prolonged time period? The risk of economic instability revs up my anxiousness much more. I’ve been burned by folks in my private life over my psychological well being. Forgive me if I’m hesitant to threat the similar destiny in my skilled life.

But wait, aren’t I a tricky, black belt superwoman? Why, you might surprise, do I “still” have psychological well being points?

For the most half, I actually am fantastic, however psychological well being isn’t black and white. Since I started taekwondo coaching in 2013, my capability to manage and handle my ideas and feelings has improved tremendously, however I’m not impervious to anxiousness and despair. Finding a great supply of grounding hasn’t magically cured me. I do sometimes want these “mental health days” folks speak about in passing however by no means make good on.

My supervisor and coworkers have confirmed to be very compassionate and would possibly even really feel damage that I’ve withheld my affected by them, however I nonetheless can’t appear to belief them with this delicate details about me.

If I say I need to stop or take an prolonged break due to my psychological well being, what can be the response?

If I say I don’t need to do one thing as a result of it triggers my anxiousness, what can be the response?

No, actually, what can be the response?

I’ve cultivated such an expert persona over the years, such a thick false masks of accomplishment, that I could also be trapped by my very own façade. People is perhaps stunned about my psychological well being issues and wouldn’t know work together with me. Some wouldn’t be stunned, and that’s what unnerves me.


Here’s what it comes all the way down to: I don’t need folks to imagine what I can or can’t do in relation to my psychological sickness.

I don’t need folks to imagine a sure response or response is because of my psychological sickness. I would like folks to be respectful and cease making jokes about psychological well being, and I additionally don’t need them to stroll on eggshells out of worry I’ll blow up at them….you already know, since I’m bipolar and all.

I would like folks to see me, not my anxiousness, despair, or mania.

It’s been really easy and easy to stability my lengthy, arduous knee surgical procedure restoration with my workload due to the security I really feel to be sincere about what I would like.

Is it potential I’d obtain the similar empathy if I have been sincere about my psychological well being?

Maybe I’ll get a solution once they discover out I wrote a ebook about it.

This visitor publish was authored by Melanie Gibson

Melanie has labored in the healthcare business since 2004, with roles as a hospital librarian, company coach, and studying designer. She can also be the writer of the new memoir, Kicking and Screaming: A Memoir of Madness and Martial Arts (pub date: 4/20/21). In the ebook, she shares the story of her life-changing journey from troubled, misplaced soul to assured taekwondo black belt.

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