Normally I don’t give two hoots about who knows that I have depression. I’ll be the first to throw it into conversation and explain my experience and justify the behaviours of people with mental illness. Obviously I write about it here and share most posts on my Facebook, meaning potentially my friends see it and know what I’m going through. Perhaps if I wrote more professionally, i.e. minus more cursing, I would put this blog on my LinkedIn or something like that. I am not ashamed of being depressed.
Except I’ve been applying to jobs for what feels like forever and I’m always stumped and awkward when it comes to checking the box, “Do you have a disability?”
I never thought I did until one posting included what they considered a disability and on the list was mental illness. I’ve had panic attacks and I get anxiety, but I’m often reluctant to say I have anxiety, largely because… it isn’t my primary illness? Other people have it worse? Really, that’s my hesitation, that other people have worse anxiety so I never really want to say that I have it, which isn’t how it works at all, I know. I can straight up say I have depression since it was diagnosed as major/severe and I’m on meds for it.
Okay, so even if I don’t have two, I have one. I for sure have depression. Okay, so… am I really supposed to check off the box that I have a disability? That seems like I’m lying?? I don’t think of myself as disabled. Should I? Is that one step closer to accepting what I thought I’d already accepted, or is it infringing on “truly disabled” peoples experiences?
They say they can’t discriminate against you if you have these things, but … can’t they? I’m not saying they should, but doesn’t it impact you just a little to know that I could potentially want days off for poor mental health while someone else wouldn’t want those days off? But then… doesn’t that invite them to stretch it to that weird argument that people who menstruate would work less? Oh I don’t know. Maybe they’re all perfect employers and don’t discriminate, but I don’t want to give them a reason to doubt my performance.
It’s just that… it does affect me. And it’s not that some times I need days off or however else they can accommodate you. It’s that depression, the loss of my father, and my apathy/negative feelings of my love life have all numbed me, made me not care what people think, and have left me incapable of filtering my personality for something socially expected. It has changed my personality. And I feel like a company can say, “Well, I can not hire you based on your personality and inability to perform the customer service that we’re looking for,” but these personality traits of apathy are from my depression.
Maybe that’s just what it is now, that I can’t use depression as an excuse for who I am as a person. Fine, the apathy from grief and disappointment, those are my own causes and pack those away where no one can see the effects, we don’t want sad people working with the public. But the part that comes from mental illness? Let’s say I’m going to an interview and am almost ready to show my shiniest, most people-pleasing side, but because of depression, it comes off a little lackluster, a little less shiny, and I’m just not what they’re looking for.
I can’t blame them because they want someone so perfect at dealing with the public and I just wasn’t that person that day. Can I blame my depression or am I making an excuse for myself? Am I not taking responsibility for my inability to perform? Am I just lazy?
Which parts of mental illness are allowed to show at work, whether or not it’s considered a disability? To what extent is it allowed to affect your performance? We can understand physical disabilities easily, and sure, after you’ve hired me and seen what I can do, you won’t judge me for this illness, but when we’re at an interview and it’s obvious, declared, and understandable that you are going to be your judgiest, then what can I do?
So I don’t click the box, I never declare that I have depression, I don’t need any accommodations for this interview or the job, I am perfectly fine. And when you decide to go with somebody else because they have more experience, I chalk it up to being a baby new grad that nobody has taken a chance on yet, rather than it being partially due to my inability to charm because of a larger yet subtler, (seemingly?) unchangeable infringement on who I am.
(And I cry a little bit.)