Anxiety, OCD and...Your Job
I've been lucky in that, throughout my battle with anxiety and OCD, I've been able to hold down a full time job.
For some people, that just isn't possible and I don't think that's something that anyone should be ashamed or embarrassed about.
Equally, taking some time off can be beneficial for some.
However, I find work to be a good distraction. It gives me something else to focus on and stop me dwelling on negative thoughts and worries.
That's not to say though that it's not hard. I frequently feel anxious at work that something I've said or done has offended someone or that everyone is going to realise that I really am as crap as I think I am and they'll fire me.
I also sometimes get a feeling of being trapped and like I can't ever leave the office - I frequently have to go outside just to remind myself that I can step outside whenever I like. There have been times when I've sat in the car park in the morning trying to convince myself to go inside because I'm so afraid of that 'trapped' feeling.
I find this happens most when I've been off work for any length of time (sometimes even just the weekend). I enjoy that my time is my own when I'm off work so when I go back, I feel a sense of loss because of all of the things that I could be doing instead. I get into a vicious cycle of not taking any days off (except the weekend) so that I avoid the anxiety when I return but then I eventually feel so anxious because I haven't had a break. If I "give in" and take a day off, it's such a relief but then it's even harder to go back because it was such a relief.
Luckily, I've been well supported at work because I've been quite open about my anxiety and OCD. If I need support in some way, I know that I can ask for it. It took a long time for me to finally admit to the relevant people in work that I have these problems but once I did, it took just a little bit of the pressure away. It's hard enough feeling anxious without trying to hide it as well. I don't tell everyone because it's very personal and I don't want to feel like everyone is tiptoeing around me - if I feel that someone needs to know (or it's going to help me if they know), then I'll tell them. Otherwise, it's not really any of their business.
Personally, I think it's best to tell your boss about your mental health issues if you feel that you can. You don't need to go into every detail and I certainly don't do that - just explain that you have a mental health issue, how it affects you/your symptoms and if there are things that you think that they could do to help you, ask. Your employer can't help with a problem that they don't know exists.
Having said that though, every situation is different and for some people, telling their employer may bring them more anxiety. It may be that they knows that their boss or colleagues are unsympathetic to mental health for example. Everyone needs to make that decision based on their own circumstances.
It can be difficult to talk about mental health with your boss or colleagues for fear that they may not be helpful or that you'll be seen as "the weak one" or that you'll be patronised. Honestly, there's no guarantee that that won't happen because everyone will react differently but you could try to see that as an opportunity stand up for yourself and to educate people that you're not weak and it doesn't make you any less capable.
I think support in the workplace for mental health is crucial but I think that part of the problem is a lack of education on the subject.
Managers can be sympathetic and supportive to mental health issues in work but without a basic understanding of those issues, I can imagine it would be overwhelming and difficult for them to know how to help. They may (with the best of intentions) say something that they believe will be comforting and helpful but is actually the opposite.
I would love to see mental health training become a compulsory part of training for line managers - obviously your manager is not there to be your therapist and there are too many mental health issues for managers to learn about them all, but if they were just trained on the basics of the more common issues, I believe it would really help managers to know how to help their staff.
What do you think? Should employers be encouraged to train their managers on mental health issues? Should you tell your boss if you have a mental health issue?