When Anxiety and Depression Accompany You in the Office

Rising in the morning, I feel like I’m “birthed” into a cold, harsh world. My anxiety and depression make me feel like I’ve been unplugged from the Matrix. My blankets are my cocoon and my bed is my nest. Although the voices in my head tell me of my challenges and flaws, the bed and blankets give me a break from facing them. In these morning moments, it’s hard to put a finger on what finally gets me out of bed. I think it’s the obligations I feel toward my children and my friends at work.

It was almost a year ago that I took a medical leave for anxiety and depression. My co-workers and my supervisor, by and large, have been extremely supportive and respectful of my privacy. I sometimes feel reluctant on elaborating or conveying experiences because you never know where stigma will come from.

My wife and my mother-in-law are the day-to-day support network at home, in particular with childcare and family/household matters. Yet, my anxiety and depression take a toll on them, too. So I try not to speak frankly about my emotions and symptoms with them.

The morning routine of getting the kids ready for school and out the door (in particular our 6-year-old twins), can be anxiety-filled for all of us. However, I try not to show it. I internalize or hide my anxiety if the kids are moving slow and if it looks like we’ll be late for school. I’m afraid that a full-blown anxiety attack will ensue if I let the anxiety get the best of me.

I usually drop the twins off at school on my way into work. I try to treasure the time I have with them while they are still young, especially since I have a 13-year-old boy who’s growing up way too fast.

I work in an “open office environment,” where there are no cubicle walls. I usually say hi to at least my “pod/table mates,” and others around me. However, I secretly really miss the structure I had at a partial hospitalization almost a year ago. At the partial hospitalization, we would start the day in a group setting with a morning “check-in.” Each of us would share how we were doing, how we were feeling and what our goals were for the day. I found this morning check-in reassuring and much more authentic than the ritualistic, “How are you’s,” in an office setting.

When I power up my computer at the office in the morning, I take one quick look at my work email, and I realize I’m not quite ready to take on the day. In a strange, ironic way, I go grab a coffee from the office kitchen to help settle my nerves. I have a long-lasting hope that coffee is my anxiety’s placebo. At least it makes a small dent in depression’s drowsiness. I grab a water too as a way to tell myself that I’m sort of being healthy.

I’ve heard of the phrase, “Time is a construct.” Yet, with my anxiety, that phrase takes on a life of its own. When it’s 11 a.m. it feels like 3 p.m. Then 3 p.m. feels like 7 p.m. Later, 7 p.m. can feel like 11 p.m. I look around at coworkers, gaze out my office window and I wonder if others ever feel the same way.

I have some compulsive, ritualistic things I do when I start to feel anxiety at work or at home. I check my personal email accounts, Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes, anxiety is the reason I get up and walk around the office or at home. Whether it’s at my work desk or in a comfortable chair at home, I find myself habitually rubbing my feet together as a nervous and anxious habit. I highly doubt anyone else notices.

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