Unlike most Tuesdays it was a busy day at the airport. I was in the middle of my shift and irritated already. Looking for ways to avoid interaction with the guests I ran into the big boss and gave him a nod to let him know I recognized his presence. This wasn’t enough for him.
“Hey, Khey! Not a smile for me today either, huh?”
Uh-oh. I’m in trouble.
“I don’t feel like it.”
I knew that was enough to grant me an invitation to his office as this job heavily relies on my external happiness rather than my effectiveness. I took a deep breath and decided to stop the upcoming lecture with some harsh TMI.
“I suffer from depression and sometimes I just can’t put on a smile.”
He gave my a blank stare and his mouth half opened for two seconds before closing again and turning into a slight smile. I waited for an answer but I was met with silence. It was painful but I held my gaze a bit longer and said
“But hey I made it here. That’s something, right?”
“Yeah, you made it!”-he said with a fake smile.
I walked away with a stack of papers ready to restock the printers.
His reaction was not an uncommon one. More than often I get that reaction from people that don’t know what to say because I bet not much people are willing to openly admit they have a mental health disorder. You could feel how uncomfortable they get sometimes, and isn’t it nice not to be the uncomfortable one for once? I know, i know.
To my surprise, instead of the stigma I thought it was going to be I found that people belittle its significance. If you open up to someone and you tell them “I can’t help it, I suffer from OCD.” They’ll look at you, smile, and tell you “Omg, me too! I am so anal about organization!”.
No, you don’t understand.
And as much as we try to explain people seem to never get it; it’s not something seasonal, it’s not cute and there is a lot of suffering. Nevertheless I believe we have to let our boss at work be aware of it because they need to know why we weren’t able to function that day. Why can’t we talk to people or why are we so exhausted every single day?
People will give you different reactions but the key is to have patience with them. If it’s difficult to open up just don’t tell them the exact thing, I tell them I suffer from depression, however, that’s not the whole truth and they don’t need to know more than that. It’s none of they business if I’m suicidal or not.
So, was it a good idea?
Yes and no. It relieves you from the fact that you have to either lie or get completely frustrated at someone because you have to explain why you couldn’t do a task. Again, people will NOT understand when you first explain. Not completely and not right away and that’s okay. As long as they get an idea of why you had to walk away or why you don’t seem to be able to finish a task that day.
On the other hand, you risk them not trusting you with other tasks as much as they used to because they probably won’t find you as reliable.
I’d say go for it and open yourself but not as much. In a healthy workplace there is no discrimination but support and understanding. And, if there is discrimination, seriously reconsider your job. Seriously.