A few years ago I had my first episode of major depressive disodrer. I had been under a lot of stress at work as a full-time warehouse manager. I was project managing the expansion of part of the warehouse. On top of that I’m a single parent of three kids.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened and I was out measuring the space in the warehouse and break-rooms and figuring out how many staff we could have on any one day and how to stagger breaks to maximise social distance. The rules changed all the time (and I mean all the time) and I was paranoid about missing something or getting it wrong. Some staff were angry about shift changes. Some refused to come in at all because they were scared of getting sick. I was so overwhelmed and couldn’t think straight. My thoughts just went around and around in a spiral.
It was taking so much strength just to make it out of bed in the mornings. My distorted thinking convinced me my family would be better off wtihout me. My oldest daughter convinced me to get help after I had a meltdown over something really minor. I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for assessment and treatment. I was prescribed medication, saw a therapist regularly and made progress in my recovery.
My workplace had been supportive regarding my need to take the time to recover from my episode and ensure there were appropriate plans in place for my return to the warehouse. This helped make my return to work much easier as I didn’t have to worry so much about my job, on top of my recovery.
It was completely up to me what my colleagues were told about my absence. I made the decision to be frank that I was suffering from severe depression and told my boss it was okay for him to tell the truth. I’m friendly and approachable and don’t meet the stereotype of depressed people being sad and angry so my team were a bit shocked. It was hard for my colleagues to understand what I had experienced but they were super-supportive. I had a return-to-work plan which had me on shorter hours so I could ease my way back. I felt comfortable with how my story was shared and what adjustments had been made to support me.
Taking Action: A best practice framework for the management of psychological claims in the Australian workers’ compensation sector
National Return to Work Strategy