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Finding Support to Manage Depression at Work

Reading time | 5 mins

It is so, so hard to try and describe exactly how depression can impact many aspects of our lives. It’s the one thing in my whole life that has changed how I behave, how I react to different situations and generally how I feel when the symptoms take hold.

Just having to juggle my personal life, relationships, kids as well as basic day-to-day chores can become really challenging when living with depression.

For me, one of the most important aspects of life (whether you like it or not) is money. After all, it’s your job that pays the bills, the mortgage or rent, and things for your family. And for somebody with depression, the pressure to keep all of this up can be extremely overwhelming, even if you are amazing at your job.

It can feel like all this pressure begins a cycle of stress and dread that you might lose your job, no matter who tells you how great you are doing.

When depression symptoms flare up

The expectation to leave your mental health condition at the door when getting to work is arguably a fair one. But some days, it can be absolutely impossible.

For many people, it requires a huge amount of strength to ‘get over’ a bout of anxiety or depression, as well as the overwhelming sense of fear that comes with it. It can feel like you’re going to fail.

Sometimes your commute into work might be spent fighting the feeling that you’re not good enough. It may feel as though you’re going to let everybody down, ruin situations and be judged by other people no matter what you do. I’ve even had days where I have called in sick, jumped back into bed and cried myself to sleep…all before 9am.

You know, the usual.

Other days where you are feeling strong enough to push through and actually do make it into work, it might feel like you’re ready for more than just a coffee when you finally sit at your desk.

When your work impacts your personal life

In my current role I advocate for people over the phone or face-to-face and this can be a very stressful job. It’s full of personal pressures to do your best for the person you’re advocating for, and when you don’t get the result that you would like, it isn’t a great feeling.

I advocate for the Gypsy Roma and Traveller (GRT) community who still receive what is described as ‘the last accepted racism’. I personally come from an Irish Traveller background and know that Travellers can experience very toxic treatment from sections of the society. The discrimination and racism that you’re working against can also feel extremely personal. This can prove very challenging to deal with, and sometimes for me, it’s hard to disconnect when I’m at home and trying to enjoy my personal life.

The nature of my job also means that I often have to meet with important people such as councils and government bodies. Sometimes I feel super-confident that I am helping other people but some days I can feel really down. I can feel absolutely petrified about going into meetings, making calls or sending emails. Sometimes I can’t even open my laptop.

This sense of dread each morning before I go to work now affects my body physically. My arms, hands, neck and back hurt all day, every day, because they are clenched so tightly. I also used to have horrendous migraines on a weekly basis and would constantly work myself up about things that weren’t actually happening. Even my teeth have been affected by me grinding them in my sleep every night.

Talking about depression isn’t easy

It’s understandable why it can be so hard to talk about something as heavy as depression to your boss or work colleagues. We don’t want people to think that we’re lazy or that we’re trying to get paid for doing nothing.

And once you put yourself out there as suffering with depression, it can feel as though you are constantly being watched. Sometimes even making a phone call in front of colleagues can make you feel anxious. This can build up as your work day goes on and gets worse, until you feel as though you can’t even do the most basic of tasks.

Finding support networks

I’m lucky that both my organisation and my manager have an understanding of mental health. They support me to be open and honest about what I’m experiencing and allow me to do what I need to do to get back to feeling my usual self. This is a far cry from where I have worked in the past, where it felt like mental health was never taken seriously and that it even might have resulted in resignations or dismissals.

Presently, my family is also a large support network for me whenever I need help. They check up on me, ask me questions that help me to open up and pinpoint why I might be having a bad day.

If that doesn’t work, I try and get as much alone time as I can, even though it feels unfair to leave my wife alone with two young children. Yet sometimes, taking my kids out for ice-cream or doing something fun can start the process of feeling like myself again.

Take control of the situation

Although I feel sad that I will sometimes have bad days and might not be able to appreciate some experiences fully, I have realised that there are so many things that can help me to feel better:

  • Try to find support networks at work. Explain your situation and find out what assistance they are able to give to employees who might be suffering with depression.
  • Talk to your family. They might be able to help you open up and pinpoint the reason why you are feeling down.
  • Take time for yourself. Do something fun or interesting to help you feel better again.

The takeaway

Thankfully these days we are far more understanding of depression and the symptoms that go with it. Hopefully, we continue to become more empathetic to those with depression, stress or anxiety. And hopefully we can continue to work with each other to find ways of being able to be the best we can be, even on the days that we don’t feel like we are anything at all.

UK/MED/19/0128 June 2019