How My Boss Saved My Life in the Storm of My Depression
On February 13, 2017, I started a new job at a fully remote marketing agency. It was a job that allowed me to do the type of work I was passionate about – like copywriting, project management and marketing strategy – and it was the job I’d been hoping for since I lost my dream job at another agency eight months prior.
When I got the job offer, I’d been out of work for four months. My savings account was almost drained, I was in a deep depression and I felt like a useless, worthless human being because I couldn’t keep a steady job. But I had hope that this position would turn things around and my mood would go back to normal.
As the weeks went by, I fell in love with my role, clients, coworkers and boss. I truly believed that in time, this would take over the title of “best job I’ve ever had.” (And for what it’s worth, six months later, it has.)
But despite how much I loved my job, I couldn’t help but feel sad, anxious and on-edge all the time. I had a hard time focusing during the day, and I found myself crying for no apparent reason.
I saw my passion for my work start to fade. It wasn’t an overnight shift, but the work I used to love started to become overwhelming.
Soon after, I stopped sleeping. I’d stay up until 2 or 3 a.m. and be awake again by 5 or 6 a.m. And despite how tired I was throughout the day, I just couldn’t fall asleep.
I was first diagnosed with depression (now re-diagnosed as bipolar 2 disorder) and anxiety when I was 14. Although my ultimate goal when I was a teenager was to be cured of my mental illnesses, I quickly learned it doesn’t work this way. My depression would come and go in waves throughout my life, and finding ways to cope with these feelings would be critical to my recovery.
Because of this, I should’ve recognized the signs I was experiencing a depression relapse. But on their own, these symptoms – being sad and anxious, not sleeping, feeling exhausted, losing interest in activities, having a hard time focusing at work – didn’t seem like a big deal.
Together, they were a sign that my depression was back – and in full force.
It wasn’t long until these symptoms started affecting my work. I went from being able to put in a full day’s worth of work to logging anywhere from two to four hours of work a day. I’d sit at my computer for 8, 9, even 10+ hours, but I couldn’t get anything done. And since we’re a small agency of five people, my boss quickly took notice.
I never planned on telling my boss about my struggles with mental illness, mostly because I was afraid of losing my job. But things had gotten to the point where I couldn’t hide it anymore. Putting on a happy face while falling apart inside was wearing me thin. I was tired, and I felt like I was going to break at any moment.
Although I was scared, I let my boss in. I let her know I have depression and anxiety, I’m not currently taking medications but I’ve been considering reaching out to a psychiatrist to seek help because it had gotten so bad.
I braced myself for the worst – for her to tell me I could no longer work for the agency or to simply say nothing at all – but her response was nothing short of positive, supportive and understanding.
And just like that, I gained the greatest support system I didn’t even know I needed.
Of all the people in this world, I never imagined it would be my boss who would be there holding my hand through the darkness. She’s watched as I bawled my eyes out when life felt too overwhelming. She’s seen me doubt myself and hate myself.
My boss has seen me at my best, but mostly, she’s seen me at my absolute worst. And not once has she ever made me feel guilty for it.
It was my boss who first pushed me to call a psychiatrist – even though I was scared and didn’t think I could do it. It was my boss who stood by my side when I started taking medications and experienced the worst possible side effects. It was my boss who encouraged me to call my psychiatrist again when it was clear the meds weren’t working.
She was there for me the day I hit rock bottom – the day I decided I couldn’t keep living anymore. And instead of walking away (which so many people do), she sat on a video call with me for two hours to make sure I was OK.
She listened when I said I couldn’t keep living because I wasn’t strong enough. She listened when I said I’m a terrible person with nothing to offer the world. She listened when I said how tired and scared I was. And although I know it wasn’t easy for her, she listened without judgment and did her best to help me through.
She reminded me of how amazing I am and repeated all of my best qualities (even though I didn’t believe it at the time). She kept telling me, “You matter. People would miss you if you were gone. I’d miss you. You’re not going to feel like this forever.”
She saved my life that day, and she’s done it many days since then. I’m alive today because my boss – someone I’ve only known six months and someone who didn’t owe me a thing – stood by me when I didn’t think I had anything left to give.
I wasn’t meant to carry the weight of my struggles alone, and every single day, my boss reminds me of that. Whether it’s through a simple “I’m thinking about you today” text message or giving me the afternoon to go to an emergency psychiatrist appointment, my boss continues to hold my hand and push me through the tough times. Because even though all I see is darkness, she sees the light within me. And if there’s anything I’ve learned through all this, it’s sometimes the people you least expect who are there for you when you need it most. You just need to have the courage to let them in.
To my boss:
I could say “thank you” a million times, and it would never be enough. But from the bottom of my heart, thank you for holding my hand through the storms, forgiving me when I can’t forgive myself, being my rock and never giving up on me.
And most importantly, thank you for saving my life over and over again. I love you more than words could ever explain, and I’m so grateful to have you in my life. Not just as my boss – but as a friend, too.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
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Thinkstock photo by chronicler101