I guess I could write about the fact that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.
I could talk about the groundhog; he didn’t see his shadow I understand.
I could even talk about Trump.
I’m not going to though.
I’ve got something I need to get off my chest.
Disabilities and chronic illness in the workplace.
This issue affects me personally. This article isn’t going to be a crucifixion to those who have affected my own personal recovery in a very negative way, but to look at why and what we can do to make it better. It needs to get better. We need to all start from that spot. I’m going to focus on my own situation. I am one of a million people who suffer from mental illness, more specifically chronic anxiety, panic attacks, and chronic depression. For those of you who read my blog weekly you may think, “I don’t see it”. Bruce’s articles are funny, ridiculous, charming, cheeky, etc, etc. The same thing happens in my day job. People don’t seem to understand that just because a person can put on a brave face and fake it until you make it doesn’t mean all is well in the mind. Everyone experiences pain, stress, and anxiety but mental illness and chronic conditions are not the same thing. I’m not going to try and explain the why’s and how’s. You can research that yourself but trust me for the sake of this article that my statement has been proven over and over again. I went on a stress leave from work several months back and on my return last summer I spent hours speaking with professionals in my company, doctors and therapists, on how to manage work stress and my own ongoing wellness. I suppose if I had to rate this back to work experience I would have to give it a 4 or 5 out of ten. In saying that I may be headed for another sick leave depending on my doctor’s advice this coming Tuesday. I don’t want to have to take this direction. I love my job. I love my team. The sad thing is I’ve been getting all the therapy and education on my illness I can, but for the most part many companies are dangerously behind when it comes to working and supporting those employees that suffer and survive this challenge. The time for change is now. How many more good and talented people must leave careers, take sick leaves, commit self harming acts on themselves because the heads of companies turn a blind eye to the ignorant leaders in their companies. Why do the afflicted have to work harder and harder but the leaders can behave in any manner they wish towards these employees? Would it be appropriate for a manager with an employee that has a broken ankle to kick that employee in the afflicted area? I’m being sarcastic here but it’s no different for chronic mental conditions. Best practices must be put in place and actually adhered to so an employee can effectively do their job and also continue to heal. I’ve been in retail management for over 20 years and I can say with certain life experiences that companies fail miserably when it comes to education and awareness of mental illness. My hats off to those I know who are working hard to change this serious problem. I have been an unexpected participant as teacher to educate people within my professional world and as much as I’m proud to speak up and try to help people understand, I’m the one with the condition and it’s exhausting beyond belief. I just want to be the best I can be. I want to build positive work relationships. I want to reach new hightail in my industry but I can’t get there if those in leadership roles above me continue to intentionally or unintentionally kick me in my broken ankle. We must hold our leaders and companies accountable for their ignorance. We are getting the help and guidance we need to cope in our professional positions but we can’t do it alone. I’m calling out to the corporate world! You want to continue to be successful and to be relevant? Then understand how you can be the inclusive place you claim to be. Lift those who work for you. Educate your teams to be tolerant and knowledgeable about these issues. Change your conversations behind closed doors. Change the stigma on mental illness. I remain hopeful but I’m worried about us. We the panic ridden, depressed, anxious, PTSD, bipolar, etc. I’m not convinced our leaders are doing their best. I find it incredibly daunting that empathy, communication, and understanding are such a difficult value to implement. If you need help I’d be honoured to point you in the right direction. You can find me on Instagram @bruceinthecity. You are never alone so keep reaching out. Keep fighting and keep the faith.
Bruce in the City
Edited by Mary Ellen Monk
This article has been written without prejudice.