What I Learned From My Challenges in the Workplace: Part 2
In my last piece on challenges in the workplace with endometriosis, I explained how my issues began when I struggled to keep up with my healthy and energetic team, in a fast-paced industry I wasn't used to. In my final article on workplace difficulties, I want to talk about two of the key learnings I took away from my experience...
I didn’t communicate clearly enough
When I began in this role, I disclosed my endometriosis because it’s something I live with everyday, I’m not ashamed of it and I believe it’s best for employers to know. I also mentioned my anxiety, though I don’t think I ever brought up my depressive episodes (this wasn’t such a prevalent issue as the anxiety then), and I didn’t emphasize my mental health challenges as strongly as I did with endometriosis.
As time went on, I mentioned in passing (and via email) about feeling anxious or struggling with it. However, what came to light once I spoke with my employers at a later date was that I needed to be more explicit about my issues with anxiety.
We worked in a pretty fast-paced environment, and when things really got on top of me all of us were traveling either across the country or overseas, so it was hard to pin down a time to have a serious talk. It became quite common to just have catch-ups on the go, so that was when I would say I was feeling anxious about this or that. However, it came to light that my employers never really fully grasped that I did have anxiety, that it wasn’t just a passing feeling, because we didn't ever really have a formal discussion about it.
I later provided them with a doctor’s certificate (though I’d been diagnosed with anxiety many times in the past by various health professionals) and also information on the link between anxiety, depression, and endometriosis. While this was helpful for them and protected me (to an extent) legally, this information probably would have been better off delivered earlier on in my time with them. I think on reflection that disclosing my mental health issues with the same emphasis as endometriosis, would have changed how my ‘passing comments’ were received and led to more serious conversations about how I was coping, which leads me on to my final point...
I didn’t ask for help
As my fatigue and anxiety worsened during my time at this workplace, I started noticing I was making mistakes, or at least thinking I had made mistakes, or that I was struggling with things or perhaps not doing so well. Half the time I fretted I was about to get fired, the other time I thought perhaps my anxiety was actually just making me think I was doing badly in my job.
Regardless of what was real and what wasn’t, I was struggling. I was so scared of seeking support in case I actually was doing badly and admitting it would open a can of worms, that any little knock to my attempts at asking for help (for example, a cancelled one to one meeting, or friends advising me not to) caused me to lose my confidence again and I’d be back at square one.
My instinct was to talk about it and ask for help, but my anxiety and fear held me hostage from speaking up. By the time it came to the crunch point, I was too far in hot water for this talk to do any real good. However, if I just reached out, maybe I could have changed the experience for all of us much sooner and would have protected myself.
If you’re struggling at work, or would like to know your rights, try reading Endometriosis UK’s guide for endometriosis in the workplace.
Have you heard about the new tampon technology currently being tested to detect endometriosis?