What You Can Do when Mental Health Affects Work

Part of adulting means working, for most of us.

Our careers are meant to give life a chunk of meaning, reflect part of who we are. For example, I chose psychology because I like helping people and I’m curious to know what causes (at least in part) why people do the things they do. My Career in Psychology reflects this choice and the different jobs that I have taken on this path. It’s been interesting. Real Stories of a (Former) Mental Health Worker is a slightly funnier reflection on the best job I have ever had. If you’ve worked in psychology, especially at a mental health facility, you’ll get a few laughs.

Stressed at work

However, when our emotional well-being takes a negative turn, most aspects of our lives are affected. This includes work- it’s hard to concentrate or even show up when you don’t want to get out of bed, get dressed or leave your home.

A Few Interesting Facts

According to Mental Health America, clinical depression is one of America’s costliest illnesses. If it’s left untreated, depression is as costly as heart disease or AIDS in the cost of lost productivity, absenteeism during a person’s prime working years. Most people, which is around 80%, can be successfully treated and live a full life with clinical depression. It’s about the same with anxiety. Other mental illnesses may have lower rates due to their severity and other factors.

  • Most of those who take short term disability due to depression are female.
  • Many of those with depression will not seek treatment because they are worried about confidentiality (a large issue in the medical field) and/or the effect it will have on their employment.
  • Untreated mental health issues can lead to strained relationships with co-workers.
  • Around 50% of those surveyed say that anxiety has diminished the quality of their work. (I have had this issue and it is not pretty.)
  • Once this becomes an issue, many do not want to speak to their supervisor about their stress because of fear of how they will be seen- as weak, not willing to work, etc.

Work

How Can I Tell There is a Problem?

Do you dread going to work?

Are you always the first out the door when your shift/day is over?

Do you feel like you have too much on your plate at work but feel you can’t say anything?

Have you lost the “spark” in your work?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of those, it might be time to step back and think for a minute. If you have additional stressors like anxiety, depression or another mental health issue, it may be time to re-evaluate your job.

You may already be trying to handle the issue without knowing it by doing things like:

  • taking longer to complete tasks
  • calling in sick/coming in late frequently
  • having issues with co-workers

How can you handle this in a healthy way?

  • Make a to-do list. This can help with overwhelm in general but can be very helpful at work. It feels good to check things off a list after staying on track.
  • Take frequent breaks. Work for an hour, take a five-minute break- even if this means just walking down the hall for a few minutes. Moving around can help a bit. This may need a tweak depending on your environment, but make it work for you.
  • Try not to take on too much. This can be difficult, especially if you like to help out, but it may lead to the overwhelm you are trying to avoid. Think carefully before you take on another project or committee.
  • Set small goals. You can break down big tasks into smaller, manageable things so that it doesn’t feel so scary.
  • Add personal items to your workspace. I had pics of my kids all over my locker in the breakroom at the mental health facility I worked at. You could barely see the inside of the locker door. It was a bit of a boost on the hard days.
  • What are your triggers? What bothers you? I am a huge fan of finding these things out. Everyone has something that sets them off- what is it about the job that stresses you out the most? Try to do something calming before that, if possible, even if it’s just deep breathing. When I was a substance abuse counselor, I kept a bottle of bubbles in my office. If I knew I was about to have a difficult session, I would close my office door and blow bubbles for a minute or two before and after. It helped.

This information is from Learn How to Become

HR talk

A Word About Human Resources

If all else fails, please speak to your supervisor. Things do and can happen. Mental health is not a joke or meant to be taken lightly. If you know that things are going badly for you, no matter what your diagnosis, even if you don’t have one, please talk to your supervisor. If you don’t feel okay doing so, then go to Human Resources.

They have ways to help you out, and even more, these people want to help you. That’s why they’re employed! There’s an interesting program that most employers have called an Employer Assistance Program that offers FREE counseling for up to six sessions, depending on the company. Sometimes it’s six sessions period, sometimes it’s six sessions per issue. Again, this depends on your company. I highly advise looking into it. After those sessions are up, they can refer you out to long term therapy if you are into that.

You’re worth it and so is your career.

Most employers want their employees to succeed and are catching up (slowly) to their needs. It may be scary as hell to ask for help, but again, you’re worth it. I’m willing to bet that you are not the first or only person at your job to ask for help.

Sometimes, losing your mojo completely may be one of many factors (long commute, extreme work conditions, etc) that play into work dissatisfaction, and if so, maybe it is time to leave. Mental health can be a large one, however, and should be looked at. How do you feel every day going into and leaving work? That’s a question only you can answer.

Has mental health been an issue where you work? Have you left a job due to stress/anxiety?

If you live in North Carolina, BetterHelp may be helpful. Better Help assists people all over the country, so if you are in a different state, the website is still a good resource.

Photos courtesy of Unsplash

Talking About Pride

Coming Out of the Closet

I decided to use an actual definition for this one, because I understand that not everyone may be clear on this one. I also think it’s the respectful thing to do. I’ve got friends and family members in the community, so I’m very clear on what this term means. Planned Parenthood- Coming Out Definition

It’s a hard process. Some people choose to wait until a certain time, some never do. It’s an individual choice, and should be respected. If someone comes out to you, please respect that person’s decision to tell you, even if it isn’t within your own values. It takes a lot to say “I’m a lesbian” or “I like guys”, or however it is said.

There is a lot of fear in coming out, however. Many people fear these things:

  • not being accepted. If there is a history of hearing homophobic slurs throughout life, it’s going to be hard to go against that.
  • getting cut off financially/becoming homeless- especially in teens and college students. Some wait until after college for this reason.
  • anxiety, depression or other mental health issues worsening afterwards due to above issues.

There is so much more support these days for the LGBTQ+ community. I feel there is a long way to go in the legal world, but it’s coming.

Marriages were a huge issue a couple years ago and I shed tears when they became legal everywhere. I believe some states are still trying to fight that one. Macklemore had it right when he said in “Same Love”- “No freedom until we’re equal/ Damn right I support it”.

laura-ockel-197421-unsplash.jpg

Pride Events

Have you ever been to a Pride event? I have been to quite a few. Louisville is a big city and every June, there’s a huge Pride event. The event has lots of food (my main requirement for anything), music and a lot of other fun things.

I usually see a lot of friends while I’m there. It’s so much fun. If you’ve never been, and you’re comfortable going, go. If you aren’t sure if there is an event near you, try looking on Google “pride events” and your city or the nearest city to you. Not everyone lives in or near a big city.

These events began as a way for people to get together, have fun, be themselves, meet others and not fear being judged or getting hurt. Of course, this didn’t always go well but over the years, the events have become safer. There will always be those that oppose these events.

The Kid Version

I have a friend, Kate, that is happily raising a son, with her wife, Christy. Lucas just turned two, and he is the happiest toddler that I’ve seen in a long time.

I hope he stays that adorably happy. They got married in Hawaii a few years ago and the pictures were adorable. I know they have struggles like everyone else, but they’re one of the cutest couples I’ve ever known. Lucas is like every other toddler out there- he just has two loving moms.

I wrote a post not long ago, LGBTQ Kids: A Guide for those who need a bit of help figuring out how to navigate the waters of having a child that identifies as LGBTQ.

This is becoming more common than people realize and I wanted to bring that to your, my readers’, attention. If you know someone who could benefit from it, feel free to send them the link.

I think it could help parents who aren’t sure what to do. We don’t always know what to do as parents, or even aunts, uncles, and so on. That’s okay. That’s why we ask others for ideas and read up.

Kids are pretty smart. They can tell who accepts them and who doesn’t. They’ll stay closest to those that do. All kids, no matter their sexuality, need someone who loves and accepts them exactly for who they are. They don’t need or deserve ridicule for who they love. They have enough to worry about.

Mental Health Issues in The Community

Anxiety and depression are common in many people. When you are struggling with hiding who you are (or feeling like you have to), losing someone you love and having to start over in a small pool of people and not feeling fully accepted,things can get very hard.

Drugs, alcohol and self-harm are three coping skills that are used by this population. Sometimes it can be deadly. There are therapists that specialize in LGBTQ issues.

This may be a good time to look into how you can become an ally or otherwise support the LGBTQ people in your life. How can you be an ally?

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Mental Health and Genetics: The Main Connections

Genetics can lead to interesting things: red hair, extra fingers (it’s called polydactyly, and I was born with it- 6 fingers on each hand), certain health conditions, blue eyes, and other things. Can it contribute to mental illness?

The research and debate continue, even as this post is being written. There has been so much research and movement forward in this field- it’s pretty fascinating. To learn more about this, please read Moving Forward: The Last Fifty Years of Psychiatry

Parent and child

My Thoughts

I don’t think genetics is the only thing that causes mental illness- if other events happen, say, any kind of abuse, neglect or other ACEs (Adverse Childhood Events) occur, then it increases the chances of a mental illness or at least signs of one, occurring. Any other theory just doesn’t make sense to me.

I also agree with the theory that if you have a parent with a mental illness, there’s a pretty good chance that you may have some traits of said illness. You also may not. I think there’s also something said for personality traits. That’s also a factor.

For example, my oldest niece and nephew’s father has SMI (Severe Mental Illness). He wasn’t able to raise them because of this (and other issues), and my niece struggles with depression. She has also had some very negative events happen in her life and had difficulties dealing with them.

My family has a history of mental illness on both sides, and my dad is a suicide attempt survivor. I lost an uncle to suicide when I was nine years old. I deal with anxiety and depression daily. I’m hoping that none of my kids ever have to deal with this issue. I’ve seen this happen in other families, with tragic results.

DNA pic

What Do The Really Smart People Say?

According to some very intelligent people at The Scientist, there are 10 mental illnesses that have genetic variants that contribute to their development. If these scientists can figure out the variants, they can discover what causes these illnesses, leading to better treatment. This would be an amazing discovery. Millions would benefit.

Some of those listed include:

  • bipolar disorder
  • schizophrenia
  • ADHD
  • autism
  • OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder)

This doesn’t necessarily mean a cure, but this means more of an idea on how to help diagnose and treat. These same studies are studying neurological issues like epilepsy, migraines and Alzheimer’s. It was intriguing to read about this research. It’s almost like the researchers are connecting the dots to learn about what is going on inside our brains.

Putting It All Together

According to a study found on NAMI there has been a gene on Chromosome 6 found to be associated with the cause of schizophrenia. This can be a source of relief, I think, to know that it truly isn’t your fault that you have a mental illness.

Those who don’t understand tend to think that you can just “get over it” or that “it’s all in your head”, not stopping to think that it’s out of your control, something that you would never wish for.

As someone with anxiety and depression- I’d never wish this on someone I didn’t like. I know a lot of people with mental illness, and none of us enjoy it. To put it plainly, it sucks.

We take meds, go to therapy, are sometimes hospitalized. We have lost those we love to suicide, have attempted, hate ourselves for the smallest things. It’s a struggle we wish we didn’t have. If there’s research out there that can help us out, I am all for it.

Sticking together

In the cases of autism, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, there has been a finding of brain cell communication changes in all three conditions. This isn’t saying there are similarities between the three, but that there are bases to the three in the brain.

There is a lot of work being done to find out more about the roots of autism. I’m pretty sure this started some time ago, thanks to the fraudulent study done that stated vaccines cause autism. People want to learn more about autism, mainly about what causes it.

If you want to know my thoughts on that topic, please see The Autism/Vaccine Debate 

The future looks interesting. It looks potentially brighter for millions. I couldn’t begin to know how to do this kind of research, but cheers to these people for dedicating their lives to doing it.

What do you think about this sort of research? Would you benefit from genetic research? 

Pictures courtesy of Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book review "Struck by Living"

Book Review: “Struck By Living”

This month’s book choice is “Struck By Living”, written by Julie Hersh, a mother of two. She tells the story of her battle with depression, which began in childhood. Her older sister suffered from depression, which she saw as she came home from college a totally different person than she’d seen before.

Julie was not close to her mother- she felt as if she couldn’t talk to her mother because she was so wrapped in herself and work. Julie also felt as if she couldn’t please her father no matter what she did.

Julie reflects on these relationships as she goes through life events such as her own college years, dating, marriage and the births of her two children. She took care of her children and later, her husband’s grandparents, but not herself. She didn’t take much time for herself. Her husband, Ken, becomes angry when Julie has nothing left for him.

As Julie approaches her 40th birthday, she realizes that she doesn’t want to celebrate the upcoming day. She had withdrawn into herself, had lost weight and her husband had become unsure of what to do next.

She had already been hospitalized and received ECT (electroshock therapy). This had required her to stay in a mental health facility the night before and for a few days after. She was left feeling sluggish and with some memory loss. (These effects are common.)

Book review

Julie attempted suicide and Ken reached a point in which he became very serious about his wife’s treatment. Later in the story, she goes to a treatment facility for a month, and even while there, she forced herself to act well because she didn’t want to be there. She just wanted to be “normal”.

This story does end well- she is able to come home and be with her family. Julie tells her story so well that I could relate to it. It is common for many with mental illness or just ongoing stress to want to be “normal” and not have to deal with what’s going on inside them.

Her story is like millions of others that should be read. I believe if more people read first-hand stories like Julie’s, it would be possible for understanding to improve. That, in turn, can help end the stigma that people with depression and other mental illnesses face.