For me, the most difficult part of managing a depressive episode is dealing with people. When I was working full-time it wasn't a problem. My depressions weren't as bad then and I was able to do what I needed to in order to succeed.
Having worked in television news, for two different colleges, for a magazine, and for a number of other organizations, I never really had difficulty dealing with my coworkers. But I imagine other people have had different experiences at work.
What I do know is this: During a depression, I'm far more sensitive and my feelings get hurt more easily. I feel more vulnerable, and it's difficult for me to deal with unpleasant people. I don't feel like being as social and I'm glad that for the last 20 years I've worked as a writer, which is a solitary profession and doesn't require as much social interaction--even in an organizational setting. When I'm depressed, it's far more difficult for me to listen to criticism about something I've written.
Knowing these things about myself was an important coping mechanism. I realized that the people around me hadn't changed, but I had. So...I tried hard to pretend things didn't matter even when they did. I tried not to show hurt feelings or to respond to irritating people. I didn't act defensively if a client wanted to make corrections to my copy.
So, for much of my working life--before I began taking medication and everything became so much worse--I could work in an organizational setting even through I was experiencing a low-level undiagnosed depression. As many of you know, it took 25 years for me to get a diagnosis, so quite honestly, I never knew what was wrong during the "low periods." I didn't know I was clinically depressed. I just thought I was unhappy at work, and that I hadn't found my true calling.
Years later, after the diagnosis and the medication, the depressions got far worse. But, by then I was freelancing. For the most part, what that enabled me to do was to set up meetings when I felt well, and work at home when I didn't. The biggest problem in those days was to try and sound "normal" rather than "wounded" on the telephone. When I truly wasn't well and couldn't attend meetings, I pretended I had the flu or some other physical illness.
For years, I had the same clients and that helped tremendously. Since I had built up a relationship with people for many years, and since they knew the quality of my work, I had far greater flexibility than I might otherwise have had. When the medication wreaked havoc, and the depressions became intolerable, my ability to work greatly diminished.
How do you cope at work? What problems do experience when you're depressed? How do yo overcome them?
Tomorrow I plan on focusing on managing personal relationships during a depression.