The intersection of mental health and a career

Oh the irony. After writing yesterday about punctuality and my inability to wake up at a reasonable hour, I woke up this morning at 8:30am, despite 3 phone alarms set to max volume. I made it to work at the reasonable hour of 9:45. Oops? My colleagues teased me, “Vanilla, you should go to bed earlier!”

Kinda, maybe. I typically go to bed between 11-11:30pm, so 8 hours of sleep brings me to 7-7:30am. Yet, periodically, I need more than 8 hours of sleep. My sweet spot is 9 hours per night. After many years dealing with my unregulated emotions and my delightful brain, I have learned that it is in everyone’s interests that I be well rested: from a productive standpoint, and from a human interaction perspective too. It is much harder for me to manage my anxiety when I am tired, and there have been many times in the past where my paranoid brain has taken over in the workplace, and resulted in a unfortunate meltdown or overreaction, which can have real consequences on client relationships, staff development and smooth teamwork. I refuse to excuse those moments by my mental health moments: I am a professional. It is my responsibility to manage all the circumstances in my life and work environment such that I can deliver the services that I am paid very well to provide. So when I have an anxious meltdown – that’s on me. I debrief what my triggers were, how to avoid and manage them such that I don’t repeat the same behaviour.

So yes. I should wake up earlier. Get more alarm clocks, louder ones, be disciplined and not hit the snooze button. All that is true.

What is also true is that last night, I was asleep by 11pm. I woke up at 1am in a full-fledged anxiety attack (as mentioned, my anxiety and depression symptoms have resurfaced this summer). It took an hour of breathing exercises, self-talk, and other coping techniques to fall back asleep. It was exhausting. So when I woke up an hour later than expected this morning, while a little embarrassed at how it would be perceived at work, I was aware that clearly my body and brain needed the extra sleep to recover.

I have 2 bosses. I functionally report to CFO-boss approximately 40% of the time, and I directly report to Direct-boss the rest of the time. Year-end evaluations, etc are all handled by Direct-boss. Direct-boss doesn’t have (to my knowledge) any mental health issues. However, she knows mine (ADD, anxiety, depression). She has made it very clear that as long as I deliver on all the objectives and projects that are given to me (there is no special consideration in the allocation of these: they are challenging, just as I like them) and provide the support and mentorship required of me by my team, she does not care how excentric my behaviour. Basically, as long as neither the company, nor any of the staff, have negative consequences from my quirky behaviour, I can do me as much as I’d like. She’d much rather I be unusual in my work habits, but work to my full capacity, than I try unhappily standardize myself, and expend useless energy on non-value added behaviours like showing up on time. Wise boss.

Having had a wide variety of bosses, I’ve learned to value such open-mindedness. It allows me to concentrate on the important stuff and to showcase my strengths, instead of stressing about minimizing my weaknesses.

Would that more bosses adopt similar attitudes (when appropriate – I’m not advocating this in all circumstances, obviously). I bet the stigma of mental health would decrease dramatically.

#grateful

 

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9 comments

    1. I do. this job has been a lifesaver. Had I been working at either of my former employers this summer, I would not have been able to resist sliding back into a full blown depression, I don’t think. Latitude, understanding but expecting ownership and deliverables is, for me, the sweetspot for me to flourish professionally. They know that too. For the moment, I can’t possibly imagine a job offer that could tempt me away from this organization.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. And yes, isn’t it wonderful? I haven’t always been so lucky in my bosses, so it has taught me to appreciate what I have, and to be sure to always do the same to my employees.

      Mental health should not limit’s a person career through stigma.

      Like

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