I know I said I wouldn’t post again, but any excuse to avoid going outside on this beautiful Spring afternoon.
I realized while rereading my Movember posts from last year, plus a post from earlier this year, that my posts on depression were kind of, well, depressing.
So, where is the good news?
Here’s some around people understanding depression and more importantly with that understanding facilitating recovery.
Manager that didn’t understand
When I wrote the post about Depression in the Workplace it was with vivid memories of a manager that while professionally-supportive didn’t understand the long term nature of mental illness.
In my case, my wife suffering with mental illness and myself being dragged into depression, it was a difficult time for everyone, a situation that we were going to need a while to recover from.
This included frustration at me missing a couple of hours each week or fortnight to visit a shrink, let alone me coming in occasionally late or rushing out early.
Likewise although my manager was aware of my situation, he never shared my situation with my coworkers or other managers, leaving them to form their own ideas about my erratic behavior.
In the end I was a bee’s dick from termination (maybe closer… I called for a last minute stay of termination) and my team mates were very disillusioned and felt I was letting them down at every test.
For over a year now I have had not one but two new managers. The senior manager has been around for a long time and I know he was aware of my bad performance, but not my situation prior to becoming my manager.
The 1st getting to know you meeting I had with each of the managers, I explained my battles with mental illness, my ex-wife’s battles and my determination to stay well and perform at a high level.
I really had no idea how good these managers were until my ex-wife’s attempted suicide that I mentioned briefly in Better Off without me.
The Monday morning after my wife’s attempt, I sent a text message to my boss informing him of the lost weekend of work (which was an issue as we were on a tight time frame and this put us back a week), as well as the events with my ex-wife.
Moments after I arrived in the office my manager took me into a meeting room and told me to go home and sort things out – taking as long as I needed. Once I explained that my ex had been hospitalized and I preferred to continue working until the moment I needed to leave without notice, he accepted this.
He did one more thing, which was to gauge how I felt about letting the whole team aware of the basic situation. Of course I was happy for him to share as much a he needed.
About an hour later I was summoned to another meeting room, this time by the more senior manager. He also told me to go home, and not come back until I was ready. Likewise once I explained my intentions, he gave me leave to come and go as I needed.
As for the lost week of work – it was irrelevant. Any time… any time I had to choose between work and family, I was to choose family with their direct approval.
Each day I was asked how I was, how Odin was, how my ex was, even how my ex’s partner was coping (a lot of my energy early on went to supporting my ex’s partner as the experience left him reeling and depressed).
About a week after the suicide attempt, my senior manager called to me to his desk to review a list of symptoms on his PC. After reading the symptoms and confirming my ex experienced all but one, he told me to grab a meeting room and call my ex’s psychiatrist.
You see my ex-wife had been misdiagnosed with depression years ago and thus ha been receiving the wrong treatment. With my boss’ assistance, I was able to assist her doctor in finding the correct treatment.
As I mentioned earlier, nothing was hidden from my coworkers and they were aware that I had the full support of two levels (actually it was 3 levels as the department head was also aware and supportive) of the organization.
I could talk freely with them, they could talk freely with me. We discussed progress, they never once said a thing, nor even a raised eyebrow, if I arrived late, or left early.
Have you ever hand a clock watching manager?
My last couple have been clock watchers. My current one is a horror, as he is normally at work about 7.30am, so he knows.
I officially start at 8:30am, but apart from 3, maybe 4 days this year I haven’t been in before 9, with 9:30 probably being the average.
I’ve only seen him tap his watch 3, maybe 4 times this year – those were the days I was on time, quickly followed by a cheeky smirk.
Of course I gave something in exchange. What I gave was the offer to work outside of office hours, whenever required. By this I mean at 6pm if someone called. At 3am if someone called from London.
My workplace gave me, continues to give me, nearly 12 months down the track, the flexibility I require to maintain my and my family’s mental health. In return I give them the flexibility to operate on two hemispheres.
So my performance review results are in.
Two years ago I was bottom of the rung, being prepped for termination. Within the afore mentioned bee’s dick of losing my job, and to be honest, that would have been the last straw for me.
This year I received the highest performance result possible. Something neither of my bosses have seen before. My senior manager stroked my performance outcome while they gave me the news.
This was a great result for me.
This was a great result for them.
This was a great result for our team.
It was a result achieved by me while dealing with all the dramas that surround mental illness.
This is evidence that being open and accepting about mental illness in a workplace can have excellent results.
There are a few key differences this time around.
For one thing I have been a lot more vocal in the last couple of years about mental illness. I haven’t hid anything. So rather than leaving my coworkers wondering why I am erratic, I have worked with them so that we can perform better as a team.
Then there are my managers. My previous manager is an excellent person, but one that lacked the understanding of my current managers.
One of them has a sibling with disabilities. The sibling has had the disabilities all their life, thus my manager is accustomed to the idea that some illnesses are long term. Adjustments need to be made, but life can still continue with appropriate support.
The other, the senior manager, just happens to be married to a psychiatrist. Fortunately for my ex, my boss’s wife specializes in the illness my ex suffers from. This is why this manager knew what to show me on the web. This is why he understands that this won’t be fixed overnight.
It’s not over, it’s the beginning, a supported beginning.
So I am well, mentally, physically and I am maintaining my employment.
Odin is well and can discuss the illness that mummy has in her head, that mummy sees doctors for to help her become well. He plays games where he puts the pieces of a patients mind back together in the right places, just as the doctors are with his mummy.
His mummy is well. Occasionally she hits a wall, but she’s also prepared to call for help, whether it’s me or Lifeline.
She knows now that she has lost years of her life, her marriage and several jobs due to mental illness.
What is important is she knows she didn’t lose this things because of who she is, but rather from a condition that went untreated.
Now she is receiving treatment, as hard as it is at times, she now has a future and a million reasons to live.
Her friends are supportive.
Her family is supportive
Her workplace is supportive.
There is no need for shame and secrets as mental illness is as normal as a broken arm.
Please support Movember in donation, word or deed.
It is a worthy cause, we are all worthy causes.
Mo’mer and Out!
Now we just have to talk Fuubaar and Fulguralis into the hairy upper lip!
Not that I would ever dissuade you from supporting me!
- Shave and a Haircut: Movember
- Just in case you thought I wasn’t serious
- Depression in the family: Movember
- Youth gone wild: Movember
- Married with child and depressed: Movember
- Depression in the workplace: Movember
- Talking about it saves lives: Movember
- Better Off without me
- Aware People are Supportive People: Movember
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