Working With Depression

working with depression

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.

The Study

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

11 comments on Working With Depression

  1. I applaud your candidness on this topic, Bradley. Working while trying to manage mental disorders is difficult at best. Impossible at other times. I have been out of the work force for about 25 years. I can see both sides of the research. Many times I regret not figuring out a way to stay out there. Retreating resulted in isolation that became my new comfort zone. But when I think about the effort to cover my depression with masks to protect others from feeling uncomfortable , I know it was more than I could manage. I’m glad you feel positive about the efforts you’re making, giving yourself credit for your work with your blog. I haven’t felt useful in 25 years–until I began blogging, sharing my journey, and hoping to touch another life. I think you’re doing a terrific job.

  2. “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.”

    Sounds like they are mainly focusing on the financial costs of missing work. Of course a persons pocket book is better off if he keeps on working but to say his mental health is better off is a far stretch in my experience. The stress from my job push me into my suicide attempt 5 years ago. I haven’t worked since as part of my plan to stay well. And even with NOT working I still get sick.

    I was taught in grad school to take into consideration things like sample size, researcher bias, validity and reliability levels, etc when analyzing the efficacy of a study. So, I wouldn’t put too much stock in this one without seeing the actual study report itself. It just doesn’t sound right.

  3. I found that when I was at my worst seriously depressed/hypomanic and playing medication roulette trying to find the right combo getting up and going to work actually helped. It was the routine. I would sometimes pray that God would help me get through the next hour, would sometimes cry but I made it thru each day. I can retire anytime now but really worry that I would just stay home and do nothing. The act of getting up, getting dressed and out the door helps me.

    1. Oh, I agree Juneau getting out and getting those endorphins going can really make a difference – most of the time. But there are those times that I just can’t push myself out that door, or if I do, I’m like a scared little church mouse.

      To work, I would need something that is routine and they would need to be flexible for those heavily depressive days. I didn’t mean to imply that working was impossible for everyone. In my case, however, I wouldn’t be able to keep a job very long.

  4. Hello Bradley! Your post just caught my eye on BlogCatalog and it just made me really sad to hear how much you’re suffering. I write a blog about being positive and happy and healthy and I know when a depression is a server as yours is, it’s not going to make that go away, but I thought it might cheer you up a little. It’s called Pure Power Panda. I’m sure if Polar Bears and Pandas were to meet in real life, they’d be awesome friends 😉

    1. Hi Bunny. I appreciate you stopping by and commenting. Don’t feel sad, it’s just one of those things some people have to adapt to. By definition severe depression can be classified as suffering, but I rarely use the word. I prefer coping or adapting, when it fits. I’ll have to pop over and check out your block.

  5. I can understand why it might help to stay at work IF there was a very understanding boss, but their would need to be particular mental health experience within the workplace and, realistically, that’s not about to happen tomorrow. However, it wouldn’t matter what supportive procedures were in place, when depression hits, my head would barely leave the pillow

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