Do you think employees should disclose their mental illness to their employers?
There were over 40 responses, with the overwhelming majority a resounding, “NO!”
The risk was worth it, for me. It’s been a month since my disclosure at work, and I continue to experience a more relaxed, open and friendly rapport with my employer. I had no way of knowing how he would respond. I was lucky.
Gnawing away at my brain…
The Facebook discussion continued to haunt me. Why on earth would I risk losing my job – one that I enjoy – by telling my employer about my ADHD?
And what was behind the next most popular FB response, “it depends on the situation”?
That old façade…
Taking a broader, rather than personal view, I’m noticing how hard our society works to maintain a veneer of normalcy. Yet most of us agree that “normal” exists only in imagination.
If we didn’t have to fit into unrealistic expectations of perfection and conformity, would it matter what the “situation” was? Couldn’t we be as casual about our mental health as we are about the common cold? Wouldn’t that be a huge relief?
Perhaps it’s also about fear of intimacy. Are we willing to hear each other’s truth?
Generally, it would seem we’re not. We maintain an accepted level of distance between each other rather than opening up about ourselves. When someone asks, “How are you?” who dares to say, “Lousy. My cat died today.” Why ask, if we don’t care?
Holding up the façade of normalcy – fear…
The FB comments seemed to be based on well-founded fears: fear of losing jobs; fear of judgment and ostracism; fear of revealing something personal, etc.
These fears are founded in the ways we treat each other. A lot of the time, we treat each other badly, out of – fear.
What is the pathway to a more authentic society?
We’re all aboard that run-away freight train called Normal.
It’s running over our self-esteem, fueled by false notions of what it is to be human. It’s polluting our villages, spewing out these false notions. It’s carrying lethal cargoes of judgment, unattainable standards, and weapons to use against one another.
We’re not just the passengers, we’re the engineers!
Time to disembark!
How can we ever break through the fear of others if we buy into the façade of normalcy?
True, it makes sense to fear some people – insane gun-toting dictators, for example. But let’s hope that’s an exception. Most of us are just trying to live happy, peaceful lives. And many of the scary ones are also driven by – you guessed it – fear.
When I feel fear, I make a habit of asking myself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”
And then I visualize that.
Then I ask: “Can I survive that?”
The answer is always “Yes.”
I don’t always know how I’ll survive, but I trust that I will.
Yes, we have kids to feed, lives to finance, and so on – but do we really want our kids living in a world where they can be judged for being less than perfect? Where they feel they have to expend enormous amounts of energy creating a false persona rather than spending energy on their strengths and talents?
Only love and fear
I was once told that there are only two emotions: love and fear.
That may or may not be true, but I’ve found that usually you can point to one of these two as driving your emotions.
Jealousy? A cousin of fear. Compassion? Fueled by love. Anger? What are you afraid of losing? …and so on…
I’ve found this to be a helpful guideline in making choices, in living with integrity. I don’t want my life to be driven by fear, but rather by love.
So why did I tell my boss I have ADHD?
I had the same fears as everyone else about telling my boss about my ADHD. I didn’t want to lose my job. I didn’t want to lose face.
But I am much more afraid of living in a fear-driven world than of losing a particular job, or even than living in poverty if need be.
It’s amazing what can happen when you take a risk. There’s only one way to find out.