I am like any other person. You probably wouldn’t guess it from meeting me, but I have PTSD, ADD, and DSPD. I have also struggled with depression and anxiety in the past. I’ve excelled in my field of work for over 20 years, and ran a successful business for 8, and got to help non-profits. But I’ve struggled my whole career, and have lost jobs, because companies don’t recognize “I’m having an anxiety attack” as a reason to work from home. Being in a office surrounded by people and distractions (especially with the “open office” movement) is extremely hard when you’re struggling with mental illness. I’ve never told an employer, or openly talked about it because I am worried it will make me unemployable.
I know many other people who are very talented but struggle with work because of their mental illness. Feeling like you don’t do your job well because you have trouble dealing with colleagues is devastating. Feeling stuck in a job that you hate because the idea of an interview causes an anxiety attack, or any other reason to struggle with work is not something anyone should have to deal with. Yet 1 in 5 people do, every day.
So here I am now. Struggling to get work, my business recently dissolved. I have been trying to brainstorm something to work on to keep myself busy. Given I’ve been treated poorly in many jobs because I’m a woman, I thought about how I could empower women in IT. But recently, a Twitter user I follow (who is an inspiring writer that has focused on mental health and career), posted a letter written by Allen Frances about how labelling Trump as mentally ill is having a negative effect on mental illness.
I’m not quite sure how my brain made the connection, maybe it was combined anxiety over all the troubling news and over not having work. I realized it was time for me to stop trying to force myself into a mold that doesn’t fit me, and that I could do something to make a difference given my skill-set. I could create a supportive environment for other professionals, and provide education based on methods that have allowed myself and others with mental disabilities to be successful in work. In doing so, hopefully change the way companies look at mental illness and make the lives of those struggling with them better.
How I got here. This isn’t my life story, it’s the just the recent events that pushed me to be open about my mental illness.
In 2016, I dissolved my business to join a startup in a low pay w/ equity gamble. It ended up sucking the life out of me for 6 months, then after I finished the MVP, they let me go. I accepted another permanent job shortly after, feeling I could make the leap back to working in an office given the stress I’d just gone through.
In an amazingly bad strike of luck, leaving a company event I fell and hit my head hard enough to significantly fracture my skull. The multiple head and neck injuries ruined my ability to do my job, from constant headaches and growing depression. The company went out of their way to support and work with me, but I went from being overjoyed about an opportunity for a bright future to feeling like everything in my life was destroyed in just a couple months.
For the first time ever in my career, I admitted to my boss I was struggling with depression. I was told coming into the office would improve my chances of getting work. I immediately regretted the admission. If I still had blood clots in my brain, maybe the reaction would have been different. It wasn’t that they didn’t mean well, they’ve been very supportive. The problem is mental illness just isn’t considered a serious thing to most people.