My Dilemma With Working With Depression
I haven’t worked in nearly eight years. I’m not happy about, or sad about – it just is. Well, that’s not entirely true. I do occasionally miss being in the workforce. I miss spending time with co-workers. I miss being productive, but right now is not the time for that. I guess I am productive, very productive actually, just not in the traditional sense. Both my pdoc and my therapist agree that I’m not ready to return to work. I hesitantly agree with them. Those who see me may wonder what the problem is. I certainly seem capable. However, they don’t see the days where depression has dragged down into deep dark pits of despair and I can barely get out of bed, much less leave the house. When I’m hypomanic, (a milder form of mania) I’m more able to hide what I’m going through, but I get disoriented easily, confused and always aware a big crash is on the way.
Given my state while depressed, I’m puzzled by a recent report. According to a collaborative study between the University Of Melbourne and the Menzies Research Institute at the University of Tasmania, attending work while suffering a depressive illness could help employees better manage their depression more than taking a sickness absence from work, a new study has found.
Lead researcher Dr Fiona Cocker, from the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health says,
We found that continuing to work while experiencing a depressive illness may offer employees certain health benefits, while depression-related absence from work offers no significant improvement in employee health outcomes or quality of life.
Researchers calculated the costs based on lost productivity, expenses associated with medication and use of health services and the cost of replacing an employee who is absent from work and unwell.
I call this the “Fake it ‘til you make it” policy. Which is a term used a lot in Alcoholics Anonymous. I hate to be cynical, but I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the studies results. Perhaps they are referring to situational depression, which is temporary. Perhaps they are referring to mild forms of depression. They can’t be referring to full blown, my life is hell, deep dark swirling depression that I, and so many of my friends who have bipolar or chronic depression, have to live through on a regular basis.
This is important information for employers, health care professionals and employees faced with the decision whether to continue working or take a sickness absence. It suggests that future workplace mental health promotions strategies should include mental health policies that focus on promoting continued work attendance via offering flexible work-time and modification of tasks or working environment.
Workplace programs and modifications may also have positive, long-term effects on health and well-being via the maintenance of a daily routine and co-worker support.
Okay, I’ve got to admit it, as cynical as I am, I must admit that having a boss that works with you does help. There was a point many, many years ago that I would not take my meds regularly. My manager could easily tell when I was off my meds and would work with me, make accommodations. He was wonderful to work for, but the accommodations couldn’t help during those times when I was at my worst. Those were the days that I could not work and it seriously affected my productivity and overall job performance.
Today my blog is my job, writing is my job, taking classes is my job. Doing my best at whatever I do. I’ve only been taking classes again for a couple of weeks now and its already not going so well, but I can’t imagine how it would go if I completely crash – Hopefully, though, I won’t find out.
Should I be looking at this study in a more positive light? Am I just being too damned cynical about working with depression?
Source: Menzies Research Institute