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  • Writer's pictureNeil Parekh

Depression in the Workplace and When Working From Home

Updated: Mar 28


For the past two months I’ve been able to tell people that I suffer from anxiety and occasional depression. For at least thirty-five years, however, I didn’t feel comfortable using those words. I didn’t feel comfortable saying that I was seeing a therapist. When I get overwhelmed, I start feeling anxious. If the feeling continues, I often get paralyzed. Sometimes, depression follows.


People who suffer from anxiety, depression or other mental health challenges are often called good actors. They can convince the world they’re ok even when they’re anything but ok. That is a particular skill you need when you are in school or in a job where you have to interact with people.


 

I will be discussing these issues and more on a new show that I launched with Dawn Helmrich, “Shining Light on Shadows: A Candid Conversation About Mental Health.” Bryan Miller will be our guest. He was the restaurant critic for The New York Times for 10 years. He was on top of the world. But the whole time he was suffering from debilitating depression and had to walk away from all of it. We’ll be live Thursday, March 28 at 7pm ET / 6pm CT on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram and my website.


If you can’t watch the show live, you can always watch it later, at your convenience.

 

Over my career, I have had office-based jobs where I went in every day, jobs when I worked independently and jobs when I was a consultant and wasn’t accountable to anyone else.

Some jobs have had structure (regular meetings, etc.) and others have been unstructured. The past four years, starting with everything shutting down in March 2020 and then my joining Digimentors in August 2020, could have been a recipe for disaster. Thankfully, it wasn’t. I have had some difficult periods, to be sure, but for the most part, I’ve done well.


I have had several depressive episodes of varying lengths and intensities over the past thirty-five years. Twice I had major breakdowns when I was working as a consultant AND my wife was out of the country for an extended period of time. One in particular happened when she was home. Almost every time, I was able to get by and not confide in my co-workers or tell my boss.


There is actually one occasion when I had no choice but to reveal that I was suffering from depression. It happened in 2007, when I was working with the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region, a nonprofit bringing together legislators and the business community in the U.S. Pacific Northwest and Western Canada.


I don’t remember what exactly happened, I had organized a meeting or some kind of workshop. I didn’t think it went very well. (For the record, I was assured that the meeting had gone well.) It’s possible that I was overwhelmed by the follow up and became despondent. I was so depressed that I stopped checking emails and stopped responding to colleagues. I just checked out. I think it lasted a month.


That was one of the darkest times I’ve ever had. I was stuck. Often in bed. Sometimes crying. It was also at that time that I had my second experience with suicidal ideation. I remember sitting on a park bench on the campus of the University of Washington in Seattle. It was a short walk to where several buses used to stop behind the cafeteria. I pictured myself stepping in front of a bus.


I was scared. I immediately told Pam (she was sitting with me). That’s when I started seeing a therapist again, Dr. Micheal Kane (whom I hope will be on the show one day). That’s when I started on a low-dose of Xanax for a few months. The ideation wasn’t very concrete, but it was enough to make me realize I needed help.


After clawing my way out of the hole, I went back and met with the Executive Director of PNWER, Matt Morrison and then the rest of the team. I remember going on a walk with him and trying to explain what was going on. It was the first time I’d spoken to him in about a month. I also had to explain it to my colleagues. People who had to pick up the slack while I was gone. I did my best to explain things, to be honest with them. I don’t think they understood it at the time, but they did their best to be supportive and they let me return to work.


I’ve never shared this story before with anyone. I’ve been as reticent about that experience as I have been about other experiences throughout my life. I’m doing my best to speak up now, however, because carrying all of this doesn’t help anyone.








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