In honor of President Obama’s announcement, I will take this opportunity to come out of the mental health closet. I am a high functioning mental patient. I take medicine to maintain my mood. It doesn’t always work, but it helps an awful lot.
If I can be open and honest about my sexuality at work, why is it so hard to do the same with my illness? I think the majority of my coworkers have been patiently conditioned by news and the media in general to be tolerant of homosexuality, if not fully supportive. Mental illness, however is something I struggle to hide every day.
I was fortunate enough to be able to put myself through business school. It gave me some opportunities at work for which I am very grateful. Sadly, no one wants a leader with a mood disorder, so I quietly stepped down to take myself out of the spotlight. It is costing me a lot of missed opportunities.
I use a tool to measure my mood every morning. On days when the indicator drops sharply, I call in sick. I am out of sick days now, and I feel too ashamed to go to HR and ask for FMLA protection. I don’t trust that they will be tolerant enough to grant me protection and not try to use it as an opportunity to put me on the short list for the next round of layoffs.
If I can be open and honest at work about my sexuality, why is it so hard to do the same with my illness?
I am a pretty brave person, so I will likely do what is right and approach HR. If I crave tolerance, I should give my company the opportunity to demonstrate it. So, in honor of Mental Health Awareness month, I will tell my job about it.
I am also creating a symbol of my struggle, a white knotted piece of string, to hang in my office. If people ask me what it means, I will tell them. I would even encourage them to take one and hang it in their workspace, to let people know they have a friend with mental illness. Now, where is my ball of string?
P.S. I wrote a novel about the struggle called 5150. It’s an ebook only right now…but you can find it on Amazon, the Apple Store, Barnes and Noble, Scribd, Smashwords…