Yes, it’s me again! There is a definite theme to my posts here on the Bi-Polar Writer blog and I assure you it’s not by design. It is the piece that I have created at the moment and as with most creators we write best and most, about things we know about.

Having Anxiety can be very taxing to nearly every part of your life. It manifests itself in many ways, insomnia, mood swings, nervous ticks, the list is extensive. As well as affecting your physical and mental health, anxiety can also result in a decline in your work performance. Work whether we like it or not is a critical part of our lives. It’s not just that its fulfilling (hopefully you have a job that is) but it provides us the means by which obtain income to survive.

I have seen a few of the impacts in my career and others, below are a few:

  • Difficulty making decisions.
  • Poorer relationships at work due to mood changes (eg irritability, tearfulness, agitation) and behavior changes.
  • Procrastination and inefficiency when completing tasks.
  • Increased absenteeism due to recurring physical symptoms (for example, upset stomach, headaches).
  • Ongoing feelings of dread about deadlines or specific work tasks and worrying about these in your free time, when away from the workplace.

I have been both an employee and an employer/manager in my career. I can tell you that absenteeism was one of the worst issues I faced as a manager. There are laws that govern what you can and cannot say to an employee who has excessive absenteeism. The biggest issue for me was, the work still had to get done whether that person showed up or not. We got through it, but it always put a strain on the department.

That person ended up being resented by other staff who had to pick up their work. An unintended consequence of anxiety sadly. For me as a manager I had to get production out of my people, I always tried to temper that with as much understanding as I could muster. Often though, corporate demanded results, I had to push, it sucked. I’m not in management anymore, I miss the money but am much happier. Anxiety not only impacted the individual but impacted the entire team. The worse part? That person felt WORSE because they knew it was impacting everyone in the office.

Do you like the people you work with? If yes empower them.

So what do you do?

If anxiety is affecting your work place performance the best thing you can do is talk to your boss. It may be a challenging conversation but once you have it you relieve yourself of a tremendous burden. You see, what happens is, your boss and coworkers have to speculate as to why you are out so often. 9 times out of 10, unless we know you well, we are way off. By letting your boss know you have an issue, you empower them, you relieve yourself, but you also invoke whatever coverage you have under your company’s personnel policy. It’s critical you have this conversation if not for your own preservation and protection, but to provide your boss the tools necessary to adequately address the issue. Not just with you but with THEIR boss as well.

Mental illness/anxiety isn’t often specifically covered by policies, but chances are there is something in there. When you let your boss know, you provide them and yourself coverage. Otherwise, as in my example, I had to get the work out of other people. Had I had a clear picture what was going on, I would have a reason for department performance (not an EXCUSE a REASON). Your employer isn’t your enemy, they need you for whatever it is you are producing for them. If you can do it, make sure they know what is going on, it will help your career in the long run.

We have Anxiety, and there are degree’s. More accurately, every day has degree’s and many of us are on the precipice of mental illness. That isn’t a negative thing, it’s not an indictment of your value as a person. We have to be honest here not only with ourselves but with the people in our lives, and yes that includes people you work with. By finding the courage to come forth about your issues with Anxiety you are doing yourself a tremendous service that likely isn’t apparent initially. You are providing yourself a layer of protection, your company has a vested interest in you being successful. You do not need to share every intimate detail of your condition but by giving them this knowledge, you are empowering them to treat you better.

Don’t Rush Your Recovery

A few months ago, I noticed that one of my depression symptoms started abating: I became interested in activities again. The doctor who testified at my Social Security hearing mentioned that I told a counselor I was always bored, so I figured this was a significant milestone.

While I was happy to get some relief from a symptom, I became anxious about how it must mean that I should try to get back to work now, and how would I manage getting and holding down a job? My job search skills are terrible, despite trying to research them myself, and I never successfully held down a job before. I’m hoping to become a mental health therapist someday.

Since my therapist was on medical leave, I talked to a substitute therapist about this. He told me not to rush.

I should’ve listened to him, but I just tried getting a volunteer job with a mental health hotline, which is among the most stressful kinds of volunteer jobs. I still felt a sense of pressure to be more productive. However, I’ve also been truly excited to get involved in the mental health field outside of blogging and posting on a forum.

He told me that he doesn’t think I’m ready yet. He wants me to participate in a mental health clubhouse for a few months where I can practice little tasks to increase my social skills and experience with handling responsibilities. He also wants me to do a peer counseling training through the department of health and social services so that he doesn’t have to spend as much time training me. After working on these things for a while, he’s willing to talk to me about volunteering again. I’m happy with the outcome of the meeting we had the other day and will follow his advice.

The volunteer coordinator’s advice got me thinking about what the therapist said. I wish that I had followed the therapist’s advice, but I’m glad that the volunteer coordinator redirected me instead of letting me volunteer before the time was right and damage myself and the callers as a result. He’s doing a good job looking out for his callers. The most important thing to me is helping the callers effectively, so I’m fine with working on some stuff for a few months in order to do a better job later.

My advice is to start with small steps when recovering from mental illness. For example, if you want to volunteer, you could start with low stakes tasks like the volunteer coordinator suggested instead of doing something stressful right away. I wish everyone recovering from mental illness well with their recovery.

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