So at work, corporate often puts out a newsletter on the central internal website, loaded with different features and articles ranging from health matters to business matters to, heck, day to day activities of the workers. And they often ask for ideas for features and articles from us, the humble workers.
So I had an idea. How about an article on mental health and mental well-being? I mean, they push out so many articles about physical health and physical well-being, and we’re a very health-conscious workplace, where employees are encouraged to go out over their lunch hours to walk or run, and there are on-site fitness facilities that are free to use, and there are even on-site massage therapists and reflexologists. Heck, we’re considered a Blue Zones workplace! So why not have an article about mental health and well-being for once?
And it’s a noble concept, right? It’s an issue often swept under the rug in corporate America. Since our company prides itself on being innovative and forward-thinking, what better place to start a conversation than in this newsletter?
So why did it take me the better part of an hour to screw up the courage to press ‘Send’ for the email I typed up to corporate suggesting the idea?
Like Erika (my This Is My Brave cast mate), I can be very forward about being messed up in the head. I do not mind talking about it should the situation arise. Because it is a part of me. I mean, it’s not entirely who I am, but it is a big part of me. Once people know that, they can sort of understand me better….well, to a certain degree. You know?
But so far, it’s been an issue that doesn’t really pertain to work, with the exception of perhaps insurance. And then there’s my missing hours to keep doctor appointments. Plus everyone has told me no one at work needs to know. And I do mean everyone – I asked around, and everyone’s answers were an emphatic “Don’t tell anyone!”
But I have. Told someone on the job, I mean.
Back in December 2014, the company had a life coach named Heather come in and speak with our group about, well, how we could better our lives. As the presentation went on, a question began to buzz in the back of my mind, and it only buzzed stronger throughout. So it was a pressing question, one that I actually wrote on a piece of paper and handed to Heather because I was too afraid someone would overhear my talking to her about it.
My question was, “Should I disclose my diagnosis of mental illness to my employer?”
Her short answer was yes.
Well, what she really said was yes, I should let my immediate supervisor know, and then let HR know, if I was comfortable with that, in case accommodations had to be made. Well, no accommodations are needed in my case, but I could see what she meant.
As of today’s date, only one person at my workplace knows I have mental illness, and that is my immediate supervisor Diane. Even then, I hemmed and hawed about it, and waited until mid-January to tell her. I told her because I was afraid she would start to question me about all the appointments I was making and keeping, and I didn’t really want any questions about it. So I just outright told her. And she hasn’t questioned me since, nor has she spoken to me about it since. Which is good.
But what am I really? Am I just looking for validation of some kind? Am I just looking for attention? Am I trying to get myself fired? (I’m not, by the way.) Am I wrong for wanting to push an envelope, to open this particular can of worms? To start a conversation about something that really should be openly talked about?
If you watched the whole This Is My Brave show, you’ll know that, when Brooke asked the audience at the end to stand if they themselves or someone they knew suffered from mental illness, everybody in that auditorium stood up. Everybody! And she’s right – if that’s the case, why is there a stigma at all?
I guess my bigger question is, does it seem to you as though I’m ashamed of being mentally ill?
Like I said, it took me an hour to send the email. And it was only about a four-line email just suggesting the idea in the first place. And I couldn’t vocalize the question to Heather – I wrote it down, in case someone overheard it.
My short answer to that is no. I have nothing to be ashamed of. Certainly I’m not proud of the fact, but, like I said, it is part of me, and I have accepted it wholeheartedly. And I don’t see it as taboo. You know?
But sometimes I wonder if I keep quiet about it for the good of other people or for my own good.
I don’t know.
I guess it’s complicated.
Anyone have any insights?
(Found the above picture via a Google search for ‘scared to press send.’ I was looking for more of an email-related picture, but this one fits.)