When Anxiety Makes You Feel Like a Burden on Your Workplace

I knew today was going to be rough. As soon as I woke up, I was already exhausted and dreading the day, and all I wanted to do was call out of work. But I didn’t have a clear reason as to why my anxiety was so high, so I told myself I wasn’t justified in doing so. I’d just have to get through the day.

I waited until the very last minute to get in my car and drive to work. Already late for my shift, I spent 10 minutes in the parking lot, trying to gather up the courage to go in. Once inside, I spent another 10 minutes on the bathroom floor, attempting to slow my breathing and loosen my constricting chest. It wasn’t working.

The worse my anxiety got, the more my self-esteem plummeted. I convinced myself I hadn’t tried hard enough to calm myself down. I told myself I didn’t have a good enough excuse to leave because I wasn’t physically sick. I felt guilty even considering leaving my work understaffed, and I imagined I was a burden on my managers for struggling yet again with my anxiety. I felt like a failure because I couldn’t simply ignore the negative thoughts swirling through my head.

I had to keep trying. If I went home now, I would be giving up. I had to be a dependable, reliable employee. I had to push through it and get the work done. That’s what a good worker would do in this situation. Right?

American society admires hard workers. We idolize those who stay positive despite their setbacks, and we hear countless stories of those who keep going, even though they are struggling. You’re not supposed to let anything hold you back. Getting up and going to work every day is, no matter how you feel, seen as strength. Quitting equals weakness. These are the values I’ve grown up with — the pressures that weigh on my mind every day, so much so that I have trouble accepting my own shortcomings. I struggle not to blame myself when my anxiety is too much to bear, and it’s so difficult not to feel like a failure when my anxiety keeps me from doing the things I want.

But this mindset is a mistake. Giving up does not make me weak; it means I am taking care of my mental health. Calling out of work because I’m too anxious to function is not the sign of an irresponsible, unreliable employee; it is of one who knows and respects her own limits. I have to redefine success and failure, and I have to reshape my ideas of being a hard worker.

When I feel I’m not trying hard enough, I must remember that living with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety disorders means I struggle and challenge myself every day. I struggle to get out of bed, to make breakfast and to take my meds. I challenge myself to put one foot in front of the other and to go out the door. My anxiety does not make me weaker than those around me. It makes me stronger every day.

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Thinkstock photo via diego_cervo

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