Hey guys, Dc here,
#BellLetsTalk is an annual celebration around the Design House. We text and hashtag because we know that we need better mental health awareness, support and education in our country and if a private company is going to help us achieve that goal, then text your little heart out.
We navigate the impacts of mental health on a daily basis in our work lives because our lives are our work, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Here’s Alisha to tell you a bit of her story and how she’s working through her challenges with an open heart.
The Strength to be Vulnerable
The first time I saw a therapist to deal with my diagnosis she remarked on the coping skills I had developed on my own after years of living with an illness without treatment. She said I was self-aware, had a good sense of humour, and the ability to throw myself into rewarding work as a distraction from how I felt.
But it was that last one that was actually making my symptoms worse.
Work it Gurl
Every boss I’ve ever worked for loved my work ethic. I would put in 10 hour days without complaint. I’d pitch in where I had no incentive to. I’d take on alllllll of the responsibility. But secretly, at home, there was no clean laundry. I’d eat Oreos and rice for weeks on end because there were no groceries. My dogs gained a ton of weight and were acting out because we weren’t walking regularly.
The Scary Reality
Basically, when I get depressed my life turns into a giant steaming turd. BUT! My work gets really, really good! Unfortunately, my mind and body didn’t love me when I became a work savage. Usually I’d get burned out and then I’d get physically sick.
My New Work Life Balance
Before coming to Dc I wasn’t very open about my mental health with my bosses so they had no idea what was going on. Here, it’s different.
Dc and Denise know that a healthy, happy team means we’re more productive for our clients, and save money in the long run. Actually, they often spot the signs of my burnout even before I do. They remind me of the need for balance.
Jacelle, my co-pilot in good mental health (you can read her story here), lists the self care activities I should indulge in. For me, that’s sewing quilts, portrait painting, and walking my dogs.
What you can do
As an employee, here are three things you can do to help make your workplace more mental-health friendly:
- Talk with your employer as openly as you feel you can. The better they understand your needs the better they can support you.
- Take care of your needs. Yeah, you want to be a good worker and you want people to like you, but you can’t pour from an empty cup.
- Identify and mitigate your stresses. Long meetings difficult? Sit by the door so you can leave without disrupting. Medications make your mornings hard? Work out a more flexible schedule where you work later into the evening.
As an employer, here are three things you can do to help make your workplace more mental-health friendly:
- Ask how you can help. Giving tasks in writing is better for some people, others may prefer a little more guidance on projects, still others may not speak up in meetings. Learn what works best and try to stick to those habits.
- Be patient. People with mental illness often doubt themselves and their work, so it’s important to recognize the impact of that struggle.
- #LetsTalk! Workers with mental illness may withdraw or ask to take time off, that’s a sign something’s been wrong for a while. Communicate regularly.
Finally, everyone should visit the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Works resource for more ideas and strategies.
I’m Getting Better Too
As I sit here reflecting on Alisha’s brave contribution to this love note, I can’t help but wonder how I’ve behaved towards the incredible people I’ve worked with and call friends, when they’ve come up short in one way or another.
As a AAA-type personality I can admit to you that I bump and grind against pure mania – many, maaany times a day. I obsess over how many mountains I can move at once and how vital and worthy and valid my commitments make me feel inside – VS the negative self-talk I wrestle with, whenever life stops me long enough for my emotions to find me.
I don’t know where the pressure comes from, but I shudder to think about how my time-starved impatience or my horse-blinded insensitivities have hurt the people I love and need most during my constant attempts to be a superhuman VS the imperfect person I actually am.
Have I always followed Alisha’s advice above? No. No I have not. But thanks to the beautiful people I collaborate with, I’ve come so far. Self care trumps any work-related requirement. Giving people the space to deal is a human right that I’m proud to anticipate and provide.
Maybe someday I’ll be able to give that gift to myself; to indulge in a moment away from the rush of an accomplishment; to look inside and feel like I’m enough.
Until then, I’ll keep looking forward,