It’s June 2014 and I am in the loveliest of hotel bathrooms. Unfortunately, I’m on the floor of that bathroom, clinging to the toilet while I dry heave. Even more unfortunately, I’m not a guest at the hotel. I work there. As such, I’m hidden away in the most remote public bathroom on the property, praying that no one else enters.
Inevitably, someone does.
I say inevitably with confidence. I wasn’t camped out in this bathroom on a single day, dealing with the aftermaths of a stomach bug. I was there every single morning, dealing with the aftermaths of an antidepressant change. A horrific antidepressant change. Otherwise known as a typical one for me.
This particular med change resulted in sky high levels of anxiety, which—fun fact—wasn’t a symptom I was seeking treatment for, just a pleasant side effect.
So there I am, doing my best to cope with it. I develop a routine that works: I go to my daily 8:30 meeting, try to breathe through the suffocating anxiety, then walk smiling to the hidden bathroom where I spend 15 minutes dry heaving and crying. Sometimes it’s 20 minutes if too many people come in and I have to quiet down to avoid being heard. Then I wait for my eyes to look normal and return to my desk, smile plastered on my face.
Fortunately, thanks to depression, I haven’t worn makeup to work in months, so I don’t have to invest time in fixing my mascara.
Then the next day I do the same thing. And the next day. And the next day.
Eventually, I have a followup appointment with my doctor & I cede defeat. “Just put me back on the old meds, doc. They don’t work, but at least I’m used to their side effects.”
I’m lucky, of course. Keely of June 2014 doesn’t know it, but she’s only a few months from liberation. Soon she’ll start working with a psychiatrist who will hand her the key to freedom and she’ll be brave enough to take it.
But let’s acknowledge a hard truth: none of us know if the people we work with are secretly camped out in the bathroom, dry heaving & crying to make it through the day.
Harder truth: some of your coworkers probably are. 1 in 6 adult Americans takes psychiatric drugs. 1 in 6 adults in this country need help with their mental health.
So let’s treat each other with extra scoops of compassion, shall we?