Why I Felt Shame at Needing to Tell My Bosses ‘I’m Not OK’
A version of this post originally appeared on the author’s blog during the week of Jan 6.
I had to follow my own advice yesterday, and do something that wasn’t easy, and made me feel weak. I had to admit that I’m not OK.
My workplace is having a virtual social event for our department today. Something light-hearted and fun that would help us all toast the new year.
On Thursday morning, I woke up and sent an email to my boss, his boss and our department head saying that I wouldn’t be participating. That I appreciate the planning and effort being put into this event, but that I also can’t find it within myself to celebrate anything this week. I had to admit that staying focused long enough to get any work done is a massive struggle right now, and I don’t think I have it in me to be social with the team on top of that.
And then, the emails and chat messages started. It was all three of them, each in their own way, checking in on me, asking what they could do to help me, beyond just not attending this event.
They were all the things every workplace should do when an employee is struggling, they were all the exact things I tell people to do, and try to do for friends and coworkers in the same situation.
I should feel grateful to work in an organization that takes this seriously, and I do.
But, I also felt weak. I felt disappointed with myself for not being as OK as everyone else who will be participating. I chided myself for letting the anger I feel about the world this week get the better of me, to get me off my game, for being unprofessional.
In short, I feel like I am all of the things that I tell other people that they aren’t when they’re not OK. This brings me no joy to admit. There are tears in my eyes as I type this, admitting to my own failings, knowing that there are people out there, and in my own home, worried that I’m not going to be OK, and because of my shame at needing help, despite years of telling others that there’s no shame in it.
But, I also know that these feelings of shame come from my own battles with stigma, not from reality. I might feel ashamed, but there is no shame in not being OK. Not ever, but certainly not this week either.
I’m angry, and I have not yet found a positive way to channel that anger. I hope I will, and as I told one of those folks checking in on me about the wine the company sent me to enjoy during this event, when I do find a positive way to channel this anger towards making a change in the world, I will pop the cork and drink it then.
For now, though, I’m just not OK. And there’s no shame in that.
Photo by Christian Erfurt on Unsplash