Face it, no matter what your job is, odds are it gets stressful. For someone with a mental health disorder like depression, anxiety, or PTSD, that stress can escalate into a hellscape. The good news is, you don’t have to lose your job. You can get help to survive.
Please know that in the US, despite the fact that much of our medical care is sub par for a first world nation, there are protections in place for those of us who suffer from mental illness. These are not state-wide, they’re national, and mental health conditions are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). That means that under federal law, your employers must provide reasonable accommodation, and your direct superiors don’t legally need to know anything more about your condition than what the accommodation calls for.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer, an HR rep, or anyone who is legally qualified to give advice about ADA protections. I only speak from personal experience and from information readily available on the web. PLEASE SPEAK TO YOUR OWN DOCTOR, THERAPIST, AND HR TEAM TO FIND OUT THE SPECIFICS FOR YOUR SITUATION.
In large companies there is generally an HR team, or a third party who will gather medical records – a request from your doctor and medical records to support the request. In smaller businesses, you may end up dealing with your direct employer, but they still must adhere to the law in this.
ADA provisions allow employees to request accommodations, not be terminated, and not face retaliation or discrimination for needing those accommodations. This is no different than a person in a wheelchair needing to have access to a bathroom and a sink they can use to wash their hands.
So what do these look like?
If you’re working for a business who is large enough, there may be FMLA available. FMLA provides time off work for medical conditions of an employee or a family member. Continuous time off is sometimes needed for medication adjustment, severe PTSD episodes, and so on. Your therapist will, of course, advise you if they feel this is needed. Intermittent time off is time you can use for appointments.
I have had an accommodation that allowed me to have the entire day off when I had therapy because the sessions were so intense I needed recovery time. Again, this is something each person should discuss with their therapist.
Other accommodations can include things like a reduced work schedule, adjusted break schedules, being allowed to have food and drink at the work station, working remotely, using white noise headphones to filter out distractions, and even having directions written out instead of given verbally. The ways a workplace can adjust the setting for employees varies, but even in manufacturing or fast food, it can be done.
I’ll say one more time, please discuss these possibilities with your therapist. Having a stable income is a huge help, and it’s important to protect it by getting help in doing so.
But what about when a job isn’t worth it?
You’ve gotten the accommodation, you’re still working, and things aren’t getting better. Your job is still piling on triggers and draining your soul.
Well, in that case, you have another option to consider. Find another job.
No, that’s not easily done. Yes, it’s scary and has its own form of stress. Many times we worry we won’t find a job that pays as much.
But what if you find a job that pays more?
You don’t have to leave the position you have to find employment somewhere else. In fact, it’s better if you keep your job while you search elsewhere.
I’ve had to leave employers before because the workplace just became far too much. In one instance, the company increased their client base by three times in one quarter. The next quarter, they increased THAT client base by three times. Then they kept doubling their client base each quarter. Yet, they never hired more people. The workload went from steady to manageable and then straight to overwhelming. They hired two people when we needed – and the managers stated – six. The job went from being one I enjoyed to being one that drove my depression and anxiety into unbearable levels.
So, I went looking for a different job. It didn’t take long to find one, either. I did accept a small pay cut, but only because I was desperate to get out of there. I often wonder what I’d have found if I had kept looking. The company I went to had some specific benefits I was looking for though, like tuition reimbursement. A small pay cut was worthwhile to me because it meant I had a way to earn my degree.
I encourage anyone who is struggling, anyone who feels they’ve had a terrible job history because their illness keeps driving them from employer to employer, seek out the help you can get. Let your income, your employment, and your mental health become stable by using the resources employers don’t talk about nearly enough. Start with your therapist or even your regular doctor.
I can’t express how much these ADA protections have helped me. I’ve gone from having a few months or in the workforce without being unemployed, to being able to maintain employment for the past thirteen years without being unemployed. That steady income changed my life. I was no longer struggling to afford food and housing. I was able to start saving back a little at a time.
You have these protections available because it is known and understood that you need them. They ensure your viability in the workforce and they ensure that you can take care of yourself and your family. Find out what might help you and get it in place. If you can’t get it, find a different place to work.
Ultimately, it’s all about taking care of yourself!
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All information, content, and material of this website is for informational purposes only and are not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider.