I recently read the story of Madalyn Parker and the exchange she had with her boss about taking time off work. She stated that she needed a sick day due to mental health reasons. I have been in Madalyn’s shoes. I know what it’s like to have mental illness seep into every part of your life. I know how hard it can be to take time off, but not want anyone to know why. Mental Illness is tricky. It hides so well at times, but can’t be contained at others. It can take over against your will, but makes you feel ashamed — like it’s your fault. Needless to say, I’ve had to take sick days for mental health reasons. And I’m glad Madalyn Parker was brave enough to talk about it.
When I saw the article by Cheryl Chumley at the Washington Times, my heart hurt.
“Let’s just nip this crazy in the bud. This is a mark of America’s wussification — nothing to cheer.”
“Suck it up. Go to work. And do what the rest of us do when we don’t feel like going to work — go.”
“Oh puh-leeze. Talk about a gag me moment.”
“All this open embrace of weakness is just making the American work force look bad.”
Those are just a few snippets from this article. At first, my head swelled with anger. Then I felt sad for all those who have to fight against this stereotype. I wanted to rid the world of ignorance surrounding mental health and I immediately had a response for the author.
To Ms. Chumley,
Mental illness is absolutely legitimate and there are infinite numbers of scientific and psychological studies that prove this. I can also personally attest to the reality of mental illness. As someone who has dealt with multiple mental illness-related problems, I sympathize with Madalyn Parker on a real level. My illnesses have affected my employment in a huge way. For example, before my depression became severe, I was employed full-time, enjoyed a rich social life and was generally a happy, content person.
When my life was completely taken over by mental illness, my ability to be the same productive person was taken away. Every job I’ve had in the last seven years has been impacted by my mental health. I just don’t have the capabilities I used to and I can’t perform at the same level. When I’ve missed work, it has absolutely never been about just “not wanting to go.” I want to work, take care of myself and contribute. I do the best I can, but sometimes I just cannot keep up with certain expectations. Very often, those things are out of my control.
I understand the difficulties that face employers when they deal with an employee who is ill. But those who struggle with mental illness have very real difficulties as well. This exchange between employee and employer is something that is desperately needed everywhere.
Someone with a mental illness
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Lead screenshot via The Washington Times.