I Disclosed My Depression to My Boss
It takes a certain amount of energy to hide depression from family and close friends. (Explaining Depression to a Friend) It takes exponentially more energy to keep depression a secret at work. But there came a time, not too long ago, when I finally had to say – ENOUGH!
Options to Telling My Boss About My Depression
Two years ago, I was put on a very stressful project at work. Additionally, I had a new (interim) boss. This was the same year that I had started having frequent depression-dips which, besides being frustrating and disruptive, made it very difficult for me to do my job to the best of my abilities.
I had just survived a week of depression whereby I took a couple of days off, worked from home a couple of days – the usual things I need to do to survive a dip. When I returned to work the following Monday, I had had enough. I was obviously struggling and something had to give.
I had a few options :
- Quit my job. (Not really an option – have to pay the bills).
- Go on short-term disability again. (Also not really an option – I would need medical evidence – these are not major depressive episodes).
- Ask to be removed from the project. (A potential option – I would need to come up with a reason and that wouldn’t solve the problem for next time).
- Tell them I suffer from depression. (A very scary, risky option – once it’s out there, it is out there).
The last thing you should do when you’re depressed is to make a hasty decision. Having said that, I only considered these four options for about two minutes before I walked into my bosses office, closed the door and broke down in tears. He was very patient while I struggled to control my emotions enough to say the words.
I Told My Boss I Suffer From Depression
“I suffer from depression,” hiccup… hiccup… sniff… “and, every couple of months I have these depression dips”, sniff… weep… hiccup… “and it prevents me from being normal – though what is normal? – and I’ve never told anybody at work so this is confidential and very scary and I don’t know what’s going to happen now…” hiccup… sniff… weep.
I spoke non-stop (except for the hiccups and sniffs) for about three minutes. I spilled my guts, I gushed, I purged.
And then I waited. Needless to say, telling your boss you have depression may be the scariest thing you ever do.
Telling Your Boss You Have Depression
To his credit, he first thanked me for my honesty. Then, he explained to me how much easier it would be, for the both of us, to manage these times now that he was aware of my personal challenges. We talked some more, I left, and life moved on. I never felt judged or discriminated against.
After his tenure as my interim boss came to an end (six months later), he gave me one last piece of advice. “I think it would be a good idea for you to tell your new boss what you told me about your depression. It was so much easier for both of us after you told me, wouldn’t you agree?” I agreed. “But,” he said, “it’s your decision.”
I did tell my new manager. She was less adaptable, overall, but worked with me as best she could. If I had to say anything about my experience with her it would be that overall, she was not an empathetic person, by nature, thus lacked the compassion one needs to even begin to relate to somebody with depression.
Today, I have a new manager. I told her about my depression too. She was empathetic and compassionate and generally wonderful.
It's hit-and-miss and I’ve been lucky. Very lucky.
There comes a time when you just have to say, “Enough is enough. I’m done hiding the fact that I have depression!” If nothing else, it is unbelievably cathartic.
Photo of two women by David Castillo Dominici, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Scott, L. (2013, August 18). I Disclosed My Depression to My Boss, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, July 5 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/copingwithdepression/2013/08/i-told-my-boss-about-my-depression
Author: Liana M. Scott
I have not told anyone at work I have depression and keep making mistakes I am now to see if I can keep my job
Hello, Noreen. I'm Jennifer, the current author of the Coping With Depression blog. Thank you for your comment. I am so sorry that you are experiencing work issues. I'm not sure what kinds of mistakes you're making, but they could be related to your depression. Have you spoken with a health care professional about your depression? If not, that's an important step. Also, while it's a personal decision that you'll need to weigh out, it might be a good idea to disclose to your boss that you have depression. Then he/she can work with you.
A sad story, I told my supervisor I have depression and anxiety. At the time I was being questioned about team meetings. I knew if I spoke during these meetings I would either cry or come off as defensive so the easiest thing for me was to remain quiet. She acted like she understood but I also got the feeling she thought I could just get over it. Within the year she had a friend who died by suicide. It hit her hard and I wondered if through the situation she would understand a bit more. I had a one on one review a short time after and she brought up depression and her friend. I listened and she told me she didn't know how to deal with someone with depression and a few years previously she told her friend she could no longer contact her because her friend talked about her depression all the time. My employer has changes within the office often and she is no longer my boss. I've had a new boss for two weeks and I've spent a lot of time over analyzing if I should let him know. Someday mental illness will be accepted.
My work doesn't also know that I have depression. They think I work normally. I just don't speak much. They only know i have personal problems. I am afraid too of being judged by people at work.
Regina, I bet we've worked for the same company.
I've been on my job almost 3 months. During the last two months its been really hard to focus, to remember things, and even when I write them down I still cant do anything right. I have depression due to a head injury in a car accident and Im going through menopause due to a hysterectomy. I'm trying to get help but most psychiatrists 1) wont take insurance 2) copays are so high that its go see a doctor OR pay my rent. I really think I will be fired soon and even faster if I tell my boss whats going on.
I believe I made a mistake telling my employer. I suffer from depression due to childhood trauma. I recently went under doctors care and was off on medical leave for a month. I've worked at my job for 20 years. I did have an issue with attendance prior , but it stem from my depression. I returned to work 3 weeks ago. Now I find myself a target for discipline and overall job performance. I have received nothing but outstanding yearly performance reviews. I accept the discipline for my attendance, but I feel harassed and targeted and a general disregard for my overall well being. The real disgust is that I work for one of the largest HMOs in this country, I'm an employee but I'm also a patient. Their unethical and ongoing disregard for their employees and the overall morale makes my job an obvious factor in my depression also. Their so called discipline to me is unfounded and the truth is I'm deciding if I I fact want to work for them. It's pure disfunction and a totally unhealthy environment for my well being. Not sure if I should retire early? All money isn't good money
This sounds exactly like me! Do we work at the same place!?
Hi Regina! I worked for an HMO that starts with a K in Southern CA. This department was terribly ruined by a Manager that used intimidation on her staff. I witnessed her bickering with another supervisor in front of the entire staff meeting. I was going through a lot at that point in my life which Led me to quit during my probation. I was Receiving mixed feedback. One person or supervisor would tell me I was catching on quickly and doing great. And that the next minute the manager wanted to see me in her office to reprimand me for taking too long to room eight patient patie receiving mixed feedback. One person or supervisor with Tommy I was catching on quickly and doing great. And that the next minute the manager wanted to see me in her office to reprimand me for taking too long to room a patient. I know work for a UC and do admin work which is brining back depression episodes. I had my first MTF appointment because of this job. I realized the importance of self care and how much we neglect ourselves working in the healthcare industry. Our employers should be more proactive at ensuring our wellbeing first to provide the best care. It is not always the case. It’s all about the budget in my department. Sad.
To my concern
I work for state job Caltrans landscape for five days I get anxiety and depression first I don't know all this hit me I had OCD through my previous job .
I did too many interviews finally I get hire as intermittent permanent for Caltrans I was exiting to have this job I wasn't excepting I had to do very heavy work I had panic attack make me take wrong decision confess my supervisor job is hard for me to continue after few weeks I submitted my resignation as family illness so I can come back to work for another opportunity without telling my supervisor the truth scare to get fire few days I had to go to urgent care doctor diagnosed me I find out I am having depression and anxiety my doctor put on medication now I am feeling better try to reapply again for the same job Caltrans please advise me what I should do I am staying home boring I am 59 years old I work hard all my life I safe enough money but still life so demanding when you have family to support please advise me.
"YOU" story was wonderful, and had a "HAPPY ENDING" NOT MANY EMPLOYERS are as sympathetic, or empathetic, and UNLIKE YOU, people may get FIRED telling the truth.That,s what "I" fear, so "I" don,t tell.
I told my supervisor I am bipolar and was "let go" during my 90 day training. I made it from Jan.8th through March 13th of this year. Of course they said it was because I just wasn't catching on quick enough. Oh well.
I told my boss about my major depression after i was hospitalized. She quickly countered with I have someone in my family that has a mental illness too. End of conversation. It was a hard thing to say but I am glad I did , not sure what she really thinks now. I am still employed.
I went public about my depression at two different high profile hospitals. One I worked at for over 20 years. The other hospital on a 3year project. The first job tolerated my disclosure but behind my back thought I was exaggerating. Oh sometimes I could hear them behind me rolling their eyes. But I was really really good at my job so they didn't fire me. (Funny how hospital workers are suspect when they have any kind of illness.) When working on the three year project at another hospital I told my interviewer and still got the job. There were certainly difficult days but I was able to work from home on those occasions. Why did I tell because I wanted to teach that it could happen to me it could happen to anyone. I'm not shy about sharing my condition with others because I want to show a normal face for people to associate with mental illness, not some creepy TV version. I also found that by outing my depression, other people who had a mental illness told me about it. Maybe said it out loud for the first time. So although I am now retired, I don't hide. Normalizing mental illness benefits everyone.
After struggling for some time, I told my boss. While sympathetic, she stood me down from my regular duties, effective immediately (I work/ed in the human services field). I was on sick leave initially, until that ran out, & my medical team kept requesting that I be given other more suitable work. The organisation felt that if I could not perform my old duties without being depressed, that they didn't need me at all! The whole nasty business went on for about 6 months, & obviously my depression got worse, not better. I know I could have fought but I was in no state to do that. I am just glad that I am getting better, & maybe I needed to be out of that job to do that.
It is such a courageous thing to do. One never knows how it will turn out. Over the years as a gov't employee I was able to tell some of my supervisors who were very compassionate, yet others were cruel and heartless. Unfortunately, in the end, the last go around where I informed them I was bullied to the point I landed up relapsing and was away for a very extended period of time and as I did not reach a remission I was forced to retire on medical grounds leaving a life that I love behind. I do not regret telling I just regret not having enough strength to fight back. I would encouragement all of us to do what we can to help inform and educate our coworkers, etc in an effort that we can all lead productive lives in the workplace.
Yes, I was talking to a shop keeper (fabric & sewing)and someone I knew casually was sitting and listening. She made some kind of comment and I have noticed she doesn't have much to say to me anymore. The shop keeper was very interested to hear about the side effects, I attend her classes if they are small, large crowds scare me....etc. But yes, she is the first one that did treat me differently and I feel strained when around her. That is why I am very careful who I tell, especially beyond the depression.....
Well done for telling your boss. Hopefully it will inspire more of us to do the same. There is way too much stigma and the only way things will change is if more people open up about it. Inspiring.
Hi Me2. Thanks for your comment. I'm hoping that by telling people, including and very importantly, my boss, that I have depression, and by writing about it here at HealthPlace, that I am helping to combat that stigma. Sometimes, self-stigma can be even worse than overall public stigma.
I think we are afraid of being judged after telling someone you suffer with depression. I have schizoaffective disorder but only usually share I have depression because the main disorder scares people off. Like they might catch it like a cold. Or I might do something crazy at any moment. Telling the truth I think is the right thing to do, if you think you can share.........sometimes , it is better to keep your mouth shut~!!!!
Hi Carol. Thank you for sharing your experience. Have you had or experienced a situation where you did tell somebody about the schizoaffective disorder and they reacted poorly? I'm finding that as long as I patiently explain what it (depression/anxiety/dermatillomania - as I suffer from all three) that the recipient of the information is both compassionate and curious. Of course, I am cautious about who I am tell.
Congratulations Linda for doing what many people fear - admitting that they live with depression. You are brave and setting a great example for others. Thanks for sharing your story and proving that it is worth it to try to end the stigma associated with mental health and wellbeing. There are also lots of online resources available for students and employees in similar situations such as www.resilienceforhealth.com.