“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation.” – Glenn Close
On Tuesday February 28th, my friends and colleagues Tiffany Toussaint, Claire Stroh, Erich Kurschat, and I are putting on a FREE Pop-Up Roundtable to discuss mental health in the workplace and how HR should approach this topic. I hope you join us! It will turn a traditional roundtable on its head as we seek to make this a collaborative conversation with the audience, not at the audience.
Registration link for this free event is here. NOTE: To create an environment where all those can speak freely and without fear, if they choose, the session will not be recorded.
That’s what this blog is about.
My life has been like anyone else’s – one of self-discovery. I learn daily about myself and likely will until my last breath moves through my lungs and past my lips exiting into the world for the final time.
I don’t like to talk. The spoken word has always eluded my perfectionist tendencies. I have struggled with this side of me all my life. I’m not a particularly great storyteller. I don’t think I’m overtly eloquent when spoken. Likely, this developed since I was a wee little lad – one who stayed in the shadows, too shy to do much else than stay in his own thoughts and not engage in the thoughts of others.
I’m probably being somewhat unfair and overly critical. That’s OK. But it’s true that it has taken me a long time to get comfortable talking to others about seemingly mundane and normal things. Talking about difficult things? As a Jersey shore resident may say, fugget about it!
Mental health is a difficult thing to talk about. For many years it has been one of the last things I ever wanted to discuss, but it likely has been one of the things I most needed to discuss.
Still, I hesitated for years and years, shutting down at the mere mention of what was boiling underneath me. I’d rather the pain, the hurt, the darkness overtake me than discuss that I had pain, hurt, darkness overtaking me.
And then it did… partially. I broke, and thank God it was only partially. Had I broke completely, I likely wouldn’t be writing this now. I had to take a leave of absence, which was scary because my workplace at the time was not a safe space, so there was never a guarantee I could come back. This kept the spiral going and going and going.
Others likely asked themselves the same things:
- Will I lose influence if I admit what I am going through?
- Will I lose promotion opportunities?
- Will I be ridiculed? Will I be believed?
- Will I still have a job when all is said and done?
Unfortunately, these things are very real concerns for so many.
I eventually went back to work after a struggle with my employer, after fruitless discussions with a therapist (I was going through the motions), but I made it back. I was able to keep myself together enough to find a new job and put myself in a position to build an environment around me that supported such darkness.
I still don’t “talk” about such things easily, but I do write about them, which is a form of talking about them. I am entering the conversation and sharing my story – even if it’s pieces. And that’s OK. One doesn’t need to be 100% open if one chooses not to be. 50% open is better than 0%, which is where I was at one time.
I like to live a life that matches my stated values. I often discuss that we need to be open, honest, transparent, and if I didn’t follow up on this with action, what good are those words? Not good at all.
Lessons I learned that I hope to share with others so they can keep it together themselves:
- It’s OK not to be OK. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you.
- You are not alone. Your support system is there – just be open to them.
- Someone, somewhere needs you, so be here.
- All things do work out in the end… just allow them to work out.
- You will smile again and mean it.
So, this is why we discuss mental health. This is why the panel discussion with Tiffany, Claire, and moderated by Erich is so important. It’s different people with different lived experiences coming together in a very human way to discuss very human things.
I hope you join us, if not to share your story, to at least come together with others because we are stronger together. You are stronger than you know.
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