I have a problem with depression. Some of the people in my life outside of work know about this. But because of my fear of encountering social stigma and causing damage to my career, I choose to be very private about this in my professional life. That tough and personal choice comes with a price, as being secretive with people that I spend so much time with puts an extra weight on me. Nonetheless, it is my choice, for now anyway. Maybe one day I will be able to face my fears, I don’t know. I recently read Dan Lukasik’s article titled, “A Lawyer Breaks the Silence About Depression Among Lawyers”. I am not a lawyer, but as a professional, this article spoke to me. I’ve been tempted to break my silence in the workplace about my struggle with depression. Dan writes, “If I had been sick with cancer or suffered a heart attack, would I write it (an article about his experiences with depression while practicing law) anonymously?” So I asked myself, “Would I keep things like that a secret from my coworkers?” Probably not. But the thought of opening up about my problem with depression….now that gives me pause. A part of me does want to just let it out and be rid of this beast of a secret. I believe that being free from hiding might help me heal when I’m coming out of a depressive cycle. I also believe that in some cases, it’s fair to let others know what’s going on. I thought about it. If I did break my silence, I might feel relieved-right? It’s not like I would be facing ostracism-right? What I realized is that I’m not ready to find out the answers to those questions. While I have great admiration for those who speak up about depression, I’m not yet comfortable in crossing that threshold myself. I’m not ready to let the professional world know who I am. For now, I am going to take this opportunity to write some things about myself, anonymously. If you are a fellow sufferer, maybe you can identify with some of the things here. If you are not, perhaps you will gain some understanding about my problem with depression.
- I have to write this anonymously. I truly hope that one day, this won’t be the case for myself and other professionals like me. But for now, I am unable to put that part of myself out there. I dread the misperceptions and the labels. I need to work.
- I am not dangerous. Seriously, I feel bad using a fly swatter. I am no more of a threat than a coworker battling cancer or living with diabetes. The truth is that the only living being I have ever been a hazard to is myself.
- I have willpower. When I look back at all the times I’ve sunk into the black hole of depression, I can’t believe I’m not dead. But somehow I’ve been able to crawl back out, somehow I’m here to write this.
- I am in pain a lot of the time. It’s doubtful that anyone would know it by looking at me.
- I get very sad sometimes, and I don’t always know why. This happens more often than I would like. When it does, I can’t just “cheer up”. If I could, I would.
- I am grateful, for the big things and the small. I really do recognize the blessings in my life. I am thankful for those who love me, for human kindness, for walks with my dogs, a fan on a hot day, a good book, homemade fruit smoothies, and so much more. I still have a problem with depression.
- I have a sense of humor. I get it, I may sometimes come off as super serious. Please don’t write me off though. When I’m not living through a period of darkness, or treacherously close to one, I’m actually pretty good at finding humor in most situations.
- I am not antisocial. Nor am I aloof. Yes, I sometimes gravitate towards isolating myself. Much of that comes from a paralyzing fear of exposing my problem. I’m working on that. The reality is that when I’m well, I love good company. I crave it.
- I do take ownership of my condition. And, I’ve finally accepted that my condition will be a lifelong battle for me. I know it’s not healthy to wallow in self-pity, solely blaming genetics and a stressful childhood. I know I need to own it. Yes, I have had moments of weakness.
- I am not the only one. I don’t have any research to share or stats to show on this, but I’ve lived long enough to know that there are others like me. Other professionals who suffer privately. If you are one of them, you are not alone my friend.
So there it is. I’ve just said more about myself than I ever have, without actually revealing who I am. It’s the best I can do right now, and I think it is progress. I’ll take it. Thank you for reading, and maybe I’ll see you at work tomorrow. By Anonymous