Easier said then done isn’t it? Do they really think it’s as easy as just deciding to change your mood and, “Shazam!” everything is changed? It doesn’t work this way; you know it and honestly they know it too. Oh perhaps you can make a fleeting and momentary change to whatever it is other people expect you to become, but really that change is superficial and short-lived.
Now we could be talking about all kinds of different situations here; anything from feeling depressed around Christmas time, feeling out of sorts on a double date or maybe even having little enthusiasm for looking seriously for work.
For many people who deal with anxiety and depression – or those dealing with some kind of post-traumatic stress disorder, they are already aware they don’t quite fit in with those around them. This knowledge only seems to make things worse too because not only are they feeling the way they do to start with, they feel guilty if they are “ruining it for others” or ” being a downer”. What they wouldn’t give to just seamlessly slide into the fun and be invisible rather than sticking out because of their singularity of mood. Yes but it isn’t that easy.
And the job interview? Well you can imagine your own feelings heading into a job interview can’t you? The pressure to perform; to come across as confident, positive, highly skilled and on top of that have the personality that’s going to be sought after by the best of employers. Well, add to this some level of additional anxiety, dread, fear and depression. Imagine how much psychological effort it’s going to take for anyone suffering in this way to perform well enough that the interviewer – a person specifically trained to read people – is going to pick you for the job.
The thing about mental illness, anxiety, depression, etc. is that it’s not immediately obvious to the naked eye that there is something going on. I mean we see a broken arm, a wheelchair or a severe limp and we instinctively see there is an issue. Doors get opened, people say, “let me help you with that”, and folks ask with the best of intentions about your injury, how it happened etc.
A mental health issue however is almost invisible on the outside. Many people struggling with their mental health put on a brave face to those they see around them. They smile at the shopkeeper, put their lipstick on when heading out the door, adjust the tie properly and keep good hours at work. They are doing the best they can to give the appearance that they are ‘normal’; nothing is wrong – and nothing could be further than the truth. “Maybe if I just ride things out these feelings will go away and I don’t want to show any kind of weakness at work. I need my job.”
Now if you don’t have anxiety or depression it can be hard to truly be empathetic; to feel what it’s like for someone in that position. We can be sympathetic of course but truly empathetic? It’s hard for some of us to find experiences in our own lives that are similar enough to what this person is experiencing themselves so we can understand what it is like to be them. Saying, “Gee I know how you feel” or “I get it” might be well-intended but you may not know how they feel and quite honestly don’t get it.
Most of us are understanding too; well up to a point. Yes there does come a point for many if we’re honest, when despite all the empathy and understanding there is work to be done and picking up the work undone that someone else is responsible for starts to wear thin. Sometimes it’s grumbling around the office cooler, that penetrating look of puzzlement you spy on the face of a co-worker across the shop floor, or the confrontational but direct, “Hey, we’re all getting paid to do a job so get your act together!”
Well if it was easy to fix whatever someone is experiencing, the people themselves would do so don’t you think? And gladly!
Look I’m not expert in the field of mental health but I’ve spoken with numerous people who suffer from anxiety and depression. It helps them in their words to acknowledge what they are experiencing without laying on pity and repeatedly inquiring as to how they are doing. While sometimes you might think you’re helping by excusing them from some task at work or giving them extra things to do to keep them busy; the best thing you can do is actually ask them what they would find helpful. After all, the person is probably the expert when it comes to what they themselves would find helpful and therefore appreciate.
As I wrap up my piece, I’m wondering if this is where you yourself would like to jump in and comment on your own experience? Would you be willing to share what it’s been like for you going through your own anxiety and / or depression? Perhaps you work with someone like this and how does it affect your own job on a daily basis? What kind of accommodations have you found work for both of you?
Someone might be reading this (you perhaps?) who could really benefit from your comments, your thoughts, your coping mechanisms and some encouragement.