I see a therapist weekly, which is such an important part of my ability to manage my mental illnesses. This requires me to take some time away from the office each week, which in turn requires me to explain to my boss that I have a weekly medical appointment. And now I’m wondering if she thinks I am dying from some secret illness because when I checked in with her before leaving yesterday, she wished me good luck, which struck me as nice of her, but also a little odd. How often do you wish someone going to the doctor’s office luck unless you think it is serious?
It also probably doesn’t help that I take pills every day, but those pills are just baby aspirin that I take because they are beneficial for my heart and blood pressure. Still, all my boss or coworkers see is weekly medical appointments and me regularly taking medicine.
Of course I could explain the nature of the appointments. After all, doing so would be a step toward ending the stigma, which is of course part of the goal of this blog. Yet, in the professional world taking time for mental health is still seen as a weakness, while routine medical appointments are not. Simply put, the risk that the stigma associated with me explaining the truth to my boss and to HR might hold me back outweighs the benefit that would come from me fighting within my specific workplace to end the stigma, only to have to repeat the fight if and when I change jobs. Honestly, fighting with mental illness is hard enough, sometimes I simply don’t have the energy to fight the stigma battle over and over again as well.
I wish I could be open about my weekly appointments. Hopefully someday I will be able to. But as I said, any gains I make in any specific workplace might be lost at my next job and the one after that, which is why the worthier fight, and what we desperately need, is systematic change that will change how the professional world and the world at large views mental illness. Until then, I am going to focus on my recover and long term mental health, trying not to feel too guilty about the time I take to do so, while hoping that my work doesn’t secretly think I am dying.