The Mental Health Stigma I Didn't Realize I Believed
M.M.’s Art Director opens up about struggling with mental health in the workplace.
I’m incredibly grateful to be working at a company where our CEO takes a few minutes at the beginning of meetings to remind our team to take care of ourselves during these “uncertain times,” take breaks, and check in with our teams and HR. It’s something my parents’ and grandparents’ generations can’t even fathom, and it certainly builds good will and a caring company culture. In an ideal world, I would love to take a mental-health day after a week that’s particularly challenging, personally or professionally. But can I truly let myself actually take a break? Even now, even after all the hard work I’ve put into my mental health, I still have this little voice in the back of my mind that wants me to keep going because it looks better (and more productive) than taking a moment to breathe and regroup. The tricky part is that the voice seems right, and it has been reinforced by a culture of achievement over everything. Working harder, faster, longer, and more diligently will get you ahead, right? But I’m not so sure that the voice is right anymore.
To fight my own stigma, I have to constantly remind myself that I am not a robot. It’s terrifying and vulnerable to share things with people, especially in a professional setting, and the boundaries of how personal is too personal are still unclear. There’s no solid answer. But what I’ve found is that in the moments of accepting our own humanity and recognizing that other people are also human beings who have thoughts and feelings outside of work, we are able to connect and trust each other more. And in doing so, there’s a sigh of relief in not being quite so alone in a conference room (or Zoom meeting) full of people.