Depression: What Happened When I Checked ‘Disabled’ on My New Employer’s Paperwork

I started a new job this week. And although I felt hopeful about working at a therapy center as someone diagnosed with depression, I still had my doubts and anxieties about being competent, being liked, etc. As I was filling out the new employee paperwork, I hesitated when I came to the box asking if I have a disability. This question is merely a standard part of paperwork, but suddenly, it felt so personal.

Growing up, I always thought the term “disabled” was reserved for people in wheelchairs. Black and white thinking tends to leave me thinking that “disabled” is used for people who cannot function well. But then I quickly remembered, almost convicted, that major depressive disorder (MDD) is nationally recognized as a disability. And I have MDD. So logically, I am “disabled.”

So, I checked “yes.”

I felt proud. Although I knew very few people would even see this document, I was proud that I have come far enough in recovery to admit and accept the fact that I am considered to have a disability. And that is totally OK. It didn’t stop me from getting my new job; it’s just a part of my life.

The next day came and my new supervisor asked me to come to her office. She was more than polite with hushed tones and politically correct phrases as she asked if I needed any accommodations for my disability. Again, I was given the opportunity to be openly unashamed. I told her about my depression and that, if anything, I might need a minute to collect myself should I become overwhelmed. And that was it. No shame. No further questions. Only support.

Again, I was proud of myself (which is a big deal for many people with depression). I felt brave and appreciated that at the beginning of a new job, my boss understands a part of me that has, in the past, brought me so much shame. And now she can look out for me and offer me help if I need it.

Being diagnosed with MDD has been quite the whirlwind, but if there is one thing I’ve learned, it is the importance of accountability and the simple checking of a little white box was another step in the road of recovery.

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