Nov 21, 2017
This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.
I remember meeting you almost 10 years ago. It was during an interview for a job that I so desperately wanted. The company had a good reputation, and more importantly, you were well respected in your field. To me that was the dream. And I can’t tell you how excited I was when I received the call advising me that I had been hired and when I was to start.
You kept me so busy in that job. Some days I remember thinking “wow, is it the end of the day already?” But it didn’t matter, I was learning, and I was busy, and at the end of each day I was exhausted. What you didn’t know was that while I was handling every project and new assignment that you gave me, I was also battling depression and anxiety. And I was fighting to make sure that you never saw either of those adversaries of mine rear their ugly heads. I did not want you to see how weak I was.
I had battled this weakness the majority of my life.
When exactly it started, I cannot tell you, but I don’t remember a day without this shroud wrapped around me. I married – a very low key ceremony with few in attendance. My reasoning was that we could keep costs down, the reality was having too many people watch us terrified the hell out of me.
My babies watched me cry my eyes out during the day when no adult was present.
I had children. I kept the post-partum depression hidden from everyone. My babies watched me cry my eyes out during the day when no adult was present. I was so terrified of being a terrible mother, so afraid they would hate me. All everyone else saw was the smiling mask that I put firmly in place.
I sat at a parent’s bedside and watched her succumb to the horrible illness that had ravaged her body for 30 years. And I did not cry. That would have been a weakness. And I did not ask my siblings to please come and sit with her and I. I was not going to be weak. If there was one thing that I could be counted on for, it was my strength. But I broke.
Breaking was almost a relief to be honest. Someone actually took the time and listened to what I had to say, and at the end of that key appointment, I had a medical diagnosis and a prescription to fill. Life was finally going to start to fall into place for me. Unfortunately I quickly learned that wasn’t the case. A prescription for mental health issues? What, you have a bad day and need to take a pill for it? What kind of weak loser are you? So, outside of the four walls of my home, and within the confines of the confidentiality of the pharmacy, no one knew.
I considered myself lucky to have a mentor who was so supportive.
You never knew I lived through this fight every single day. I never told you. I was able to do my job and do my job well. I went through a divorce and had to rebuild my life. When I felt the anxiety building inside of me, I dealt with it, privately so as not to make anyone uncomfortable. When I felt my shoulders tightening as the depression tried to rear its ugly head, I put the smiling mask back on and made jokes – usually aimed at me. And you continued to keep me busy. I considered myself lucky to have a mentor who was so supportive.
I had another significant break one day, and the mask slipped off and I was incapable of putting it back in place. I spent two days wrapped in a blanket, not going out into the world. That was too much for me to handle. I needed to hide, just for a little while. Everything around me was dark and gloomy and I just couldn’t…. Thankfully it was a weekend and I was not expected in the office.
Come Monday morning though, my mask was still not fitting. And I am pretty sure that a grey storm cloud was visible over my head. You came into my office that day, and I told you what had happened. I remember the look on your face. I still try figuring out exactly what that look was – fear? revulsion? disappointment? all of the above? What I do know is that our relationship changed permanently in that moment. In your eyes, I was the epitome of weakness.
But here is what I need you to understand. I am not weak. In fact, I am stronger than you can even imagine. I pull myself up from the pits of despair time and time again. In fact my success rate for overcoming “bad days” is 100 percent and I am very proud of that fact.
It would be nice if just once you asked if I needed anything.
I come into work every day, and I complete everything that is handed to me. I do notice that you no longer trust me with the same workload, but that is your choice. I know how much I can handle…same amount I could handle ten years ago, because I am the same person. I don’t call in sick when my illness rears its ugly head. If need be, I will email you requesting a personal day. And I do not elaborate further, but it would be nice if just once you asked if I needed anything.
I am still the same person you met, the same person you hired, the same person you once trusted; you just may not recognize me without my mask in place. I am still the one who supplies you with information you need, the one who supports all your company initiatives. I am still the one with the quick wit, the silly puns and the overabundance of sarcasm. Only now you choose not to see me. Please stop pretending I am invisible.
Are you afraid of me now? My illness is not contagious. I am still me. I just no longer battle my illness, as that was too exhausting. Today I live with my illness and instead battle against the stigma attached to it. For me, this has made a huge difference in the quality of my life. If you have any questions, I am right here, willing to help one more person try to understand this illness.
Just so you know, I am still me.