The REply in my head

“Did you know? She declared that she has a mental health diagnosis.
I’m having second thoughts about having her come in to work here.
What if she can’t take the work? What if she has too many issues?
What if she needs more supervision and that means us taking more time to support her?
Maybe it’s a good thing for us if she doesn’t get the job after all.”

I listened with my heart in my mouth, thankful that we were speaking on the phone and not in person. I felt my heartbeat getting faster. I felt myself wanting to defend… Who, what, I’m not sure. But I felt like I had to defend something.

“I was there too”, I wanted to say. “I still have bad days. I know what’s that like. I don’t think it’s fair that her abilities should be judged just because she declared her diagnosis.”

I ended up only speaking a version of the last line, rather half-heartedly.

“Maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to discriminate… I mean, many people with mental health issues manage really well with medication and stuff like that.. Right?”

“Hmm… that’s true.”

The conversation ended, I went home and sank into bed, wiping away tears of shame and anger. The reply I wanted to give, wished I had given, churned on in my head.

“I was there too. I know what that’s like. Don’t be so quick to dismiss or judge people who struggle with mental health issues.

You didn’t know this, and there were times when I just wanted to drop the masks and tell everyone. But I didn’t. Because I was too afraid of comments like the ones you just made.

Did I affect the team negatively, even when I felt that my life wasn’t worth living?

Did I require extra support to do my work, even when I came to work after crying intensely the night before? (And while we’re at this, what’s wrong with providing extra support for someone who may need it?)

Did I create extra work for everyone, even when I believed I was useless and a fraud and had pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes?

Your words are hurtful and shame-inducing because they speak to the darkest parts of me. The parts that tell me I’m not good enough, the parts that I tried so hard to conceal under a facade of efficiency and confidence.

In a way I admire her for declaring, whatever her reasons may be. At least she doesn’t have to hide that part of herself anymore.”

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