Working with social anxiety isn't a cure for social anxiety disorder, but working with the disorder has taught me a few things. Other people may look at social anxiety disorder and think that people just need to get over their irrational fears or worries and become productive members of society, especially when it comes to working. I was one of those people who wondered how I would ever be able to work considering the paralyzing anxiety I felt from having to deal with the public, using the phone, and other work-related things. I felt (and sometimes still do feel) the constant pressure of that stigma saying suck it up and go to work. So I did, and here's what I learned from working with social anxiety.
Stigma at Work
A post made by a woman named Madelyn Parker about the response from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company she works for after she said she was taking mental health sick days has gone viral. The compassion and understanding of web developing company CEO Ben Congleton toward Parker taking time for her mental health has drawn a wealth of virtual applause and admiration. There are, however, naysayers taking issue with the post, and one response, in particular, I’ve seen is riddled with stigma around taking mental health sick days from work.
Politics and the impact of mental illness stigma is a topic that has intrigued me for a number of years, and the discussion of politicians experiencing mental illness stigma raises a number of important points and questions. There are many politicians who certainly do have a mental illness, but you will never know about it, especially if it is a highly stigmatized mental illness such as schizophrenia. It is unfortunate that several stigmatized individuals in our society assert that because you have a mental illness, you cannot, and should not, rightfully be a person who can be trusted to represent the interests of society on the political stage.
There is a certain underlying stigma in society that is strong, impactful, and often devastating for many people who live with a mental illness in the workplace. Not only are particular professions extra stigmatizing for the person involved, but there is this false idea lingering out there that the person employed is somehow unworthy, their skills are questionable, and they are often pushed out of their position.
If someone at a job interview explains a two year gap in their resume by mentioning chemotherapy, they will likely be heralded as a survivor and their chances at the job typically would not be affected. But if the same person, with the exact same qualifications and manner of interacting explains a gap and mentions a psychiatric hospitalization, things may be a little different.
Have you ever made up a white lie or two to cover up a gaping hole in your resume where a psychiatric hospitalization was considered to be your primary employment? Have you ever told acquaintances that your fascination with mental health was born due to ‘some close personal friends and family members who have struggled?’ Have you ever lied about having a mental illness? I have.