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Should You Disclose Your Mental Health Struggles to Your Boss?

Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Two years ago, over the spring and summer of 2017, I had a major mental health crisis. It was bad. I have had a few in my life, but this one turned my entire world upside down! I wanted nothing more than to go to sleep and never wake up again. It affected every aspect of my life. My wife and I almost got a divorce. My job greatly suffered because my lack of motivation and attention, and my apathy. My kids suffered as I was disengaged with them. My friendships eroded as I sunk myself into a reclusive life in my basement. I wasn’t living, hell I was barely surviving at that point. All I wanted to do was die.

One fateful night, one that I will never, ever forget, I told my wife to her face I didn’t love her anymore. I can’t believe those words ever came out my mouth. I still cringe when I think about that. But instead of kicking me out or yelling at me, my wife could see something was really wrong with me, and long story short, insisted we get help. From there on out, life is a blur. I spent the next three weeks at a hospital in treatment, learning how to cope and manage life.

Right before I was admitted, I pulled my boss aside and told him everything. I told him I had a very serious mental health crisis with depression and I was seeking help in a treatment program and I would be back in a month. Why did I tell him? I don’t know. He didn’t have to know. I had a right not to tell him. But with everything going on and how my brain was functioning, I really didn’t give a damn. It didn’t matter.

My boss stayed out of my business the whole time I was in treatment, aside from a few check-ins. It was really nice to be able to focus only on myself and getting better. My phone was disconnected from the Outlook server, so I didn’t see emails come in either. My discharge plan was pretty intense, which I don’t blame them for. I had therapy appointments every week, psychiatrist appointments weekly, support group meetings and a few other check ins. So going to work probably wasn’t the best thing.

But I felt strong and felt I needed to. So, I went back to work. My boss didn’t ask any questions, just welcomed me back and I was thrown back into the machine. After about two days, I was done. I was overwhelmed. I was drained. I was exhausted. My brain had been through a huge crisis, then we worked on reprogramming it and now I was just trying to get back to normal.

My brain just wasn’t having it. I spent a lot of time working from home as much as I could. There were days I still couldn’t fathom getting out of bed and going into work. I would text my boss:

“Today is a really bad day. I am working through it, but I will be at home today.”

He always just responded with a supportive:

“Sounds good! Feel better!”

Now that I am over two years past my crisis, I often wonder if I said too much. Did I let him into too much of my private life? I am sure a few others know, too. So now it is out there and people know. Do I care? Do I regret it?

Honestly … sometimes. Sometimes I felt I was being let off easy or given a lighter workload. Though sometimes I felt as though I was being treated just like everyone else, which is what everyone wants, right? Sometimes I felt my goals might have been easier or more attainable than others’, but I can’t prove any of this. I am a pretty open person. If someone came up and asked me about it, I would tell them straight-up what was going on.

I think mental health is just as important as physical health. By keeping mental health a secret, we are keeping the stigma alive, right? I understand it is tough to talk about with the people we love, let alone our bosses. But I felt that since he knew, we had an understanding. He could see on my calendar every Friday I was marked as “out of the office” for a few hours and he knew it was for a therapy appointment. I think the biggest thing to him was that I was trying to better myself and I was putting forth effort at work as well, no matter how minimal it may have seemed.

He gave me a bridge. He gave me some latitude to figure my personal stuff out and for that I will never be able to thank him enough. It has been two years. I still see my therapist on a regular basis (twice a month, every other Friday at 8 a.m.) and I still see my psychiatrist regularly. I facilitate a support group for men with depression which requires me to leave work early. All of these things take away time from work, but I do my best to make up for that time.

Here is the deal — I just got a new boss. Do I tell him? It proved to be beneficial with my last boss … but that was in a time of crisis. I am far away from that. (By the way, I am doing very well in my recovery these days in case you were wondering.) Maybe my old boss already told him?

So, how do you feel about this? How comfortable are you sharing your personal life and ailments with your boss when it will impact your work life? Am I wrong for telling him? Did I say too much? Am I putting myself at risk? Is it OK to do, or is this just the case of me being an over-sharer?

Getty image by fizkes

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