Last year, when I was asked to be interviewed for my employer’s corporate newsletter, I was very hesitant. The interview would be read by many, seeing as I work for Florida Blue, a company of about 11,000 employees. Why should this be a concern? Because they wanted to interview me about my mental illness.
Learning to be open and authentic about this part of myself has been an evolution over time. I was first diagnosed with depression at age 26, which was a long time coming. Since the age of 7, I knew something was up with me, but until the diagnosis I didn’t have a name for my condition. I really didn’t have awareness that I had a condition, but instead believed I just needed to work harder to be “happy” like everyone else. The diagnosis finally provided an answer to why working hard didn’t work. However, I had a new challenge: hiding my condition from people I thought would be disappointed in me, or even hurt my career. So I kept my “issues” to myself, filling my days with work and frantic busyness, staying one step ahead of the demons. This worked for a long time. It wasn’t ideal, as I was really stressed out and not fully experiencing life, but hey, it kept me out of the hospital.
Then BAM! Midlife and perimenopausal hormones arrived to ruin the day. I had no idea these normal body changes would wreak such havoc on my mental state! The challenges became overwhelming and I got more and more desperate. Keeping busy wasn’t working anymore. I needed help. Little by little, I told my family and friends what I was going through. When it all became too much and I needed time off from work, I confided in my boss and other coworkers. I feared I would be demoted or laid off, but I found support instead.
This journey has surely tested me, pushed me to my limit. It’s absolutely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The people who have supported me has made all the difference. This even includes people I don’t know personally, such as the authors and bloggers I’ve read. I want to pay it forward by sharing my story too. My aim is to share what I’ve learned to inspire and motivate others to find their own path through mental illness.