Should You Tell Your Work About Your Anxiety?

If you’ve read my other posts, then you know that I suffer from extreme anxiety. Suddenly, I feel like I’m dying and need to seek medical assistance while it may only be benign PVCs or a bout of acid reflux. It can sneak up on me at any time for any reason, but especially when I’m stressed or a new change has taken place.

How Others May React If They Don’t Know You Have Anxiety and See an Anxiety Attack

When a panic attack strikes, it can be terrifying not only for you, but for those around you. They may not know how to help and instead escalate the anxiety. In the end, they’ll probably take you to the hospital where you will rack up costly medical bills. Or, they just think you’re crazy and talk crap about you behind your back.

How My Anxiety Started Up Again

Recently, I just started a new job. This was a huge change for me because I had been working from home for a year and a half. The idea of going into the office was terrifying. Not because I actually had to go in, but because I am forced to be there all day. What if I have an attack and need to run to the doctor? What if I need to step out for a minute to gather my thoughts to prevent a bad anxiety attack from happening? I couldn’t do any of the above which only made me feel more trapped. It’s completely frustrating!

The Mistake I Made When Starting My New Job

Since I was starting a brand new position at a new company, my husband told me not to tell a soul about my anxiety. Before negative comments start rolling in… his reason behind that was he didn’t want others making judgments about me because of my anxiety which can happen with narrow-minded people. Unfortunately, mental health is still foreign to many. Instead of realizing it’s an actual disease just like asthma or allergies, they label you as “crazy” or a person with problems. They can even go as far to think you can’t succeed at your job because of it.

For about a month, I struggled through the anxiety to the point where I was absolutely miserable and was crying in the bathroom. For me, I get attacks during internal office meetings. I assume it has something to do with the feeling of being trapped. Finally during a meeting one day, I just lost it. I left the meeting and hid in the bathroom crying for an hour. Too embarrassed to go back in.

Instead of hiding anymore, I went to the owner of the company and told him about my issue. He was so sympathetic and understanding. Actually, he called me into his office to discuss my anxiety and talked to me about how it also affects members in his family.

Since coming clean and being an open book about it, people are more sympathetic and understanding. They don’t think anything of it when I’m having an off day or need to ask them if my smile is crooked because I think I’m having a stroke. They just write it off as my anxiety and then we go on with our day. Some have even opened up to my about their anxiety issues.

Here’s My 2 Cents:

When you start a new job, I would recommend you…

  1. Tell human resources that you have anxiety. Make sure to give them instructions on how to handle your panic attacks or else they may call an ambulance. Lay out an anxiety plan for them. Remember, all of this should be confidential.

  2. Tell your direct boss. This way they’ll know why you need to step outside for a minute to clear your head or spend a little longer in the bathroom trying to collect yourself before a massive panic attack. If you’re comfortable, you may even want to tell other managers you work closely with. When I told everyone, it was like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. My anxiety attacks actually decreased substantially.

  3. Tell your close co-workers or work roommates. I work in a small office with one other person. I’ve let him in on my secret about having anxiety. Randomly throughout the day, I may turn to him and ask if I’m stroking out. He’ll assess my face quickly and inform me that I’m definitely not. Then, I turn right back around and start working again. Anxiety attack avoided! Maybe he thinks I’m crazy, but he’s never alluded to it. If anything, he’s been a great support system in the office. It’s the same thing with my other two co-workers. If I’m freaking out about something, they’ll take me outside and let me vent or freak out. Then, we go back in and act like nothing ever happened. The day has been saved and I can get my work done with no frightful, lingering thoughts.

 

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