Somewhere there’s a silent voice
Learning how to sing.
Some of us can’t move ahead
We’re paralyzed with fear.
‘Cause we all need to hear…
I BELIEVE IN YOU.
~ lyrics by Amanda Marshall and Eric Bazilian
Well, it’s over.
If you read OMG! I Came Out at Work Today!, you know that that was the day I confessed to my boss that I have ADHD.
A million thoughts ran through my head in the intervening 72 hours between then and now.
I turn my back on my meds for one second and…
The irony that I was not on my stimulant medication when I chose to ‘fess up was not lost on me.
I’d always wanted to let my employer know that I had ADHD, but the medication kept my impulsivity at bay. Five days after being off it, here I was, blurting out the news. (To see the reason why I decided to come out, read Friday’s blog post).
Who me, brave?
Over the weekend, I found myself singing Amanda Marshall’s “I Believe in You,” trying to pump myself up for Tuesday, the day when I’d return to work.
On Saturday, I noticed that Psych Central posted a question on its Facebook page asking:
Do you think employees should disclose their mental illness to their employers?
As of this writing, there are over 40 comments and counting. Do you know how many of them said yes?
TWO (including me).
There were many resounding “NO’s” and quite a few “depends on the situation.”
As I read the comments, including some who said they had disclosed and lost their jobs, my heart sank.
“Oh my God!” I thought, “What have I done?”
I might be passing around a collection plate…
Visions of unemployment danced in my head. I live in an economically depressed area, where part-time jobs are few; those in need of them are legion.
I was scared.
Yet somehow, on my way to work this morning, I found myself smiling. It could be because of the March 1st sunshine. It could be because the night before I’d received an impromptu coaching session from a friend.
I was dressed to the nines, my hair in an updo. I wore a tailored vintage jacket with a new pair of pin-stripe slacks. I looked good. I felt good.
I felt scared.
Before long, I found myself singing Luba’s “Let It Go.”
“Lift the sanctions that restrict this woman’s madness…”
~ songwriters: Kowalchyk, Luba
That line made me laugh out loud.
A friend in need…
Just then, my dear friend Jonathan came walking down the sidewalk, grinning. Jonathan has publicly struggled with FAS (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder), telling his story on live television interviews, etc. Coincidence? I think not.
Jonathan took my hand and escorted me to my first day back after disclosing my ADHD. A good sign, I thought.
I realized I was blessed with two amazing survival tools: friends and music.
The first song on the radio at work was an old Police song, “Sending out an SOS…” No kidding!
Here’s how it went down:
My boss made a point of saying good morning. Did I hear a softness in his voice that I hadn’t heard before? Or was I projecting?
I was so nervous, I paged him for a call on the wrong line, then hung up on the caller. Blushing furiously, I prayed that my anxiety would not lead to more mistakes, sabotaging my performance and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I still had the memory of all the Psych Central nay-sayers dancing in my head. Having an advanced poll of disclosure doom-sayers was not helping.
Turning poison into medicine
As I struggled with my nerves, I remembered that in many philosophies, challenges are seen as life’s greatest opportunities.
I realized that I’d given myself many opportunities for growth by putting myself in this situation:
– to remember to breath deeply when feeling anxious
– not to beat myself up after making a mistake, thus making matters worse
– to be vigilant about self-talk – keep it positive and nurturing, override the negative
As I began to calm down, I remembered a couple of crucial factors:
– I’d already told my supervisor (with whom I have a friendly rapport) several months ago about my ADHD; she was fine with it
– I’d recently become more relaxed with my boss, perhaps paving the way for my disclosure’s neutral acceptance on Friday
– at Friday’s meeting, I heard nothing but positive things about my work
Later in the day, my boss looked me straight in the eyes when answering a question. Prior to this, he’d rarely looked me in the eye. He’d seemed uncomfortable with me – not an uncommon reaction.
Many times I’ve heard that I intimidate others, which has saddened me as it’s not my intent.
Maybe my boss and I have achieved a new comfort level. Could it be that my saying at our meeting that, “I realize sometimes I come across as odd. That’s because I am” – while looking him straight in the eye – has broken the ice? He actually had a small grin on his face when I said that, and I felt that we connected.
Maybe I have ADHD and I’m delusional!
Ok, I could be fantasizing some or all of this. But as far as I’m concerned, that’s the way it went down.
While I don’t suggest that my level of openness is advisable for everyone, I still contend that overcoming mental health stigma has to start somewhere – and, by God, I don’t mind starting with me.
Whether you choose to disclose or not, as Amanda Marshall said:
All I want to do is help you to believe in you.