Heard yesterday, 10 am, near the coffee pot in the newsroom…
Co-worker: “Hey, you’re back. Were you on vacation?”
Me: “No. I was sick.” End of conversation, I walk away, hoping there are no further questions about my illness.
Despite having gone public and written about my depression and alcoholism for 8 years, I still cringe when I take time off because of my depression. I would think nothing of discussing my ailment if it was the flu or strep throat, but admitting that I took time off to deal with my depression somehow makes me feel weak and lazy – like I’m a fraud.
Then I feel bad about feeling bad about feeling weak and lazy because I’m the one always ranting about how depression is real – it is a bona fide illness and the #1 workplace disability in the U.S.
So, why is it that when it’s my turn at bat, I bunt? In most areas of my life I don’t give a rat’s butt about what other people think of me. I confidently do the next right thing without fear of being judged. I have no problem admitting I am a recovered alcoholic. In fact, I’m in awe and proud that I have not had a drink in nearly 15 years.
But when it comes to saying that I had to take time off work because of my depression, I feel like a dog with its tail between its legs. I feel like I’m faking it. Like somehow a fever and snot running from my nose is more legitimate than being paralyzed by hopelessness and an intense fatigue.
My mother was a farmer’s daughter and I was taught to pull myself up by my bootstraps. Suck it up. Do what needs to be done and don’t make a stink about it. A little voice in my head says, “You’ve run marathons. You can dead-lift 195 pounds. You love the tiny roar of your little 14-inch Barbie chainsaw. Now get off your ‘effing ass and get to work. You know you’re faking this so you can get time off work.”
The logical side of my brain, which apparently is very small, says, “Look, you make a living using your brain. You’re a journalist. You must have razor sharp focus, recall and the ability to analyze events and organize your thoughts. You really think you can do that right now?”
Help me out here. Does anyone else feel this way?
*Update: Still working on the generic issue.
Coffee at the office photo available from Shutterstock