I’ll never forget my first corporate job. It was one of those “clock in at 8am, or else” kind of places. With work, it seemed like there was zero sensitivity to the very real-life issue of depression. I found myself “calling in sick” or making up “dentist appointments” in order to just have a mental health day.
It was a crushing, and desperate feeling to know I was “trapped” in the full-time work lifestyle.
As someone who has battled depression since I was 15, it was a rude awakening to realize I didn’t have the ability to take a true “mental health day”.
In high school, my mom understood that I was struggling and helped me navigate teenage depression – allowing me to miss a day of school if it was absolutely critical. (she also helped me find a good therapist, and learn positive coping skills)
In college, I was able to “skip” class when the darkness was truly too dark.
And while I don’t advocate skipping school and work as a way to treat depression, sometimes it’s essential so you can, have a day to breathe, do your self-care, and talk to a therapist
And while I’m happy to say my depression now fluctuates between mild to minor (it’s amazing to have this kind of healing) – I am human, I still struggle.
And sometimes we all just need a day to be depressed.
No matter what role I found (even if I was allowed remote work options and tons of personal days) the feeling of being “trapped” in corporate work crushed me.
As a depression-prone person, the idea of feeling like my productivity had to fall within 8am – 6pm timespan was claustrophobic.
The culture of corporate work was also tough. The hierarchy of leadership vs. individual contributors, the toxicity of most of my bosses – it eroded my self-esteem.
Finally, I hit a breaking point.
Corporate was incompatible with who I am, my inner entrepreneur, and my predisposition to mental health challenges.
As time went on, I luckily found my way to jobs that had more flexibility
In the Corporate World: Mental Health is Still Taboo
While mental health awareness has come a long way, talking about depression and anxiety when it comes to work is still a little taboo.
I think it’s because “depression” is sometimes looked down on as laziness. And anxiety as procrastination.
I’d be willing to bet that at least half of people who find their way to freelancing do so partly because of their anxiety or depression.
The typical 9 to 5, full-time work lifestyle is not compatible with depression or anxiety.
You don’t always know when you’ll be hit with a dark episode. You can’t always predict a panic attack that could keep you sidelined for days.
As a freelancer, you have much more freedom and space to navigate your mental health with dignity.