Do you remember Mikey? Well, Mikey is currently enjoying the luxury of an inpatient hospital stay. I’m recovering from massive scratches on my arm and a disaster of a bedroom because I had to move furniture and take my bed apart to capture the stupid adorable beastie.
See, Mikey is sick. I know this because he repeatedly vomited all over the house. He wasn’t eating–not even his favorite wet cat food, and (this is the true key) he hid himself. I could only track him by his retching noises.
I hope you weren’t eating as you read this.
It took me and Offspring #1 working together to catch him, even though he was incredibly ill. He resisted all help and wailed the entire way to the vet. I paid extra for sedation, so he wouldn’t be as stressed as they treated him. (And I just got off the phone with the vet–he’s still got an extremely sore stomach, and they are going to do an x-ray to check for a blockage, and if there is one, it’s surgery time. Please send cash.)
Now, I love my kitty, and I just wanted to help him, but he was hiding. If I weren’t paying attention, I might have thought he was just snoozing somewhere, and that was why I hadn’t seen him–except for the vomit that kept appearing.
And I thought about how many of us do the same thing Mikey does when we’re in trouble at work or home–in our business lives or our personal lives–we hide.
We don’t ask for help or tell people we’re struggling. We just say, “everything is fine.”
I want to let you in on a secret: most managers and coworkers are happy to help when you are struggling. Sure, we all hear stories of bad bosses who want to take any sign of weakness and destroy their employees. We hear those stories because they are not the norm. The norm is help and support.
If you’re struggling in your personal life and might benefit from some therapy, your EAP is there to help you. If your company doesn’t have an Employee Assistance Program, talk to your HR person right now about adding it. It’s almost open enrollment time, and your company’s insurance broker would love to add it. It’s generally quite inexpensive. Please do it.
If you’re struggling financially, have a lawsuit against you, or going through a divorce, your EAP is also there to help.
Unless your boss is a complete monster, let your boss know you’re struggling. You don’t need to go into details. But, your boss may be able to help you with workload, schedule changes, or even just emotional support.
What you don’t want to do is be like Mikey and run and hide. Sometimes you can be completely overwhelmed and literally cannot work. (Yesterday, I accomplished almost nothing because of a variety of things in my life, including Mikey. Let’s just say that when it rains, it pours.) It’s better to let people know. And bosses? A mental health day is a real sick day. Mental health is an important part of healthcare.
Not everyone is comfortable going to their boss. This is understandable. Reach out to a friend or family member and say, “I’m struggling.” If you don’t have anyone you feel will understand what you’re going through, search out an online group of people in similar situations. I guarantee you are not the only person going through whatever it is you are going through.
Just don’t hide. It doesn’t make anything better.
And managers, and HR, pay attention. If an employee appears to be struggling, don’t just assume “slacker!” Talk with your employee. Brenda and I discuss some ideas here: