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It's okay to not be okay

andrew profile image Andrew O'Rourke ・3 min read

DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional. I'm just someone who suffers from depression. Always seek help from a mental health professional if you are suffering. This post is also written in the context of UK employment law.

Foreword

I'm not quite sure whether this article fits on dev.to, but I've had this rattling around in my head for the better part of a few months, but I've never quite been brave enough to commit it to paper. I apologise if this article is a bit intense, but it's a bit of an outpouring from my heart.

I've been suffering from depression and anxiety for the better part of two years, but I'm on the road to recovery. It has definitely affected me in the workplace, and I would like to share some things which have made coping with it easier for me.

The intended audience of this post is for those who also suffer, but I hope it helps improve the wider awareness of mental health issues in the community as well.

1. Remember you are not alone.

I mean this in two ways: You are not the only person in the world who feels like this, and there are people out there who care about you. It's easy to forget this when you are suffering. Put it on a post-it somewhere on your desk as a reminder, or have a photograph of a loved one or your family. Surround yourself with people who complement you, instead of those who detract from you.

2. Be honest with your colleagues.

This was one of the hardest things for me to do, but if your co-workers don't know that you're suffering, they can't be there for you. A lot of stigma towards depression comes from a lack of understanding, and if you're honest with your colleagues that you're struggling with your mental health, they can start to understand and help you.

3. Depression is real.

Linking to the above, a lot of stigma towards depression manifests as being told to "man up" or being told to "cheer up". Don't listen to it, depression is real, and it claims tens of thousands of lives a year in suicides. In the United Kingdom, a mental health condition is considered a disability if it has a long-term effect on your normal day-to-day activity [1], and you are entitled to support from your employer [2]. Don't let people belittle your suffering.

4. Cut back on the caffeine.

Seriously. Cut back on the caffeine, or cut it out entirely. Withdrawal can be a hard process to go through, and it can take a serious amount of willpower, but constant ups and downs caffeine gives you makes it a whole lot harder to cope with the rest of things. Cutting down was one of the best things I did recently, and it has given me a lot more energy in my downtime to do things I enjoy.

5. Have an understanding manager.

This isn't always possible, but it is probably one of the best assets you can have in a workplace environment. I'm blessed with having a manager who has worked for me before in a previous job, and understands my situation. Help your manager understand your position in one-to-one's, and figure out what you can do for each other to make things easier.

6. Take five.

If things are getting on top of you, take a break. Walk around the office, or go down the street to a corner shop for a cold drink. Some employers provide spaces for people to have some quiet time to themselves, take advantage of those if available. Try to clear your mind of troubles and stay centred. Don't let work consume you, and don't bury yourself in work to hide how you feel.

7. It's okay to not be okay.

Please don't suffer in silence. If you're struggling, seek help from a medical professional, talk to charities such as Mind, the Samaritans or even your parents.

Don't ever give up, there's light at the end of the tunnel. You matter. 💙

References

  1. When a mental health condition becomes a disability, gov.uk
  2. Reasonable adjustments for disabled workers, gov.uk

Posted on by:

andrew profile

Andrew O'Rourke

@andrew

Been coding for 15 years, breathing for 27. Likes finding simple solutions to complicated problems. Jack of all trades.

Discussion

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I needed this today.

Thank you for sharing. I love mental-health posts and think it's very relevant to dev.to. Dev's with depression/anxiety/etc are more common than I ever could have imagined. It's important that we talk about it and help lift each other up. I'd love to hear more on how you navigated telling your team/manager and how they reacted, if you're up for it.
Again, thank you!

 

My current boss used to work with me at a previous job and offered me my current one when my previous employer wasn't handling my depression very well. He knew right from the start the situation I was in, as we worked together when I was first struck with depression.

 

Andrew,

Thank you so much for sharing this. Incredibly difficult to do, but it's so valuable for the rest of the community to hear a story like yours, and to hear small things that you have done to help.

Super interesting too about the caffeine. That seems like the hardest item on the list. :) Any advice on how you went about doing that?

 

I'd encourage anybody who feels affected by the subject matter here to check out Greg's talks.

youtube.com/watch?v=Z6x9wmlFz_c

Or podcast appearances.

dev.to/codenewbie/ep-142--codeland...
dev.to/rubyrogues/142-rr-depressio...

 

Quitting the caffeine took a lot of pure willpower, especially when I was on four cans of Monster a day. Killer headaches for two weeks solid. :x

 

We spend so much time in front of a screen, it's sometimes easy for us--no to mention coworkers, managers, etc.--to forget that we're humans, not machines!

Thanks for taking time to remind folks about mental health and the stigmas of "hidden illness". (In my case, 35 years a migraineur and I still have to educate people that it's not just a headache.)

 

Thanks for writing this. I think it helps a lot to have occasional reminders like your article.

Also, I'm glad you wrote some actionable steps. A lot of times I have similar thoughts and don't follow through with them, and for me it really validates + motivates me when someone else thinks the same thing.

 

Here's the main thing that gets me:

How do you know you're in trouble?

I mean, I try to stick to a routine in an effort to have stability, and inadvertently breaking that routine requires some time to get back on it (vacations are intentional, of course). But I've had times where I look back and ask myself "Am I just existing?"

I have to wonder.

 

Realising and admitting that something is wrong is possibly the hardest part of it at all, in all honesty.

I only realised I needed to seek help when I was getting home, going straight into my bedroom and not leaving until the morning. I was barely eating and having suicidal thoughts, feeling that my existence was a net negative on the world.

It took a lot of strength to book an appointment with my GP and admit this was how I was feeling. I was immediately prescribed SSRIs and referred for counselling, and that was the start of my recovery.

Talk to your doctor, get some advice. They can help you. 💙

 

Yo man. It seems relevant to me, because we coders sometimes work all the time in a room alone and we forget that we exist.

 

Important things to talk about.

Thank you for sharing.