Talking to your boss about anxiety: strategy and timing

More thoughts on talking to your boss about anxiety.

When is a good time to do so?

As a starting point for the discussion, I have to assume that you’re seeking professional help to at least manage symptoms. Sorry folks, advice from little ole me alone isn’t going to cut it.

So look ahead to the time when you’ve feeling like yourself again. The set of challenges before you won’t be any different, but it will no longer feel like a huge tangled ball of twine, hovering in the dark cloud inches above your head, threatening to come crashing down any instant.

Instead, your set of challenges will start to feel like an almost-manageable set of work, if you approach it in the right way, working smarter-not-harder. There’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Is this the right time to talk to your boss? Possibly. Much depends on the history between the two of you. Has your boss seen you kicking some serious butt before or between anxiety episodes? If so, they are probably concerned and confused about your perceived decline in performance, so waiting until yo’ve got some recent successes piled up might help shape the discussion in a positive direction. But be sure to lay out the timelines. Do’t make excuses–just lay out facts.

If you suddenly bring up anxiety in concert with some kind of epic fail you’ve fallen prey to, chances are that your heartfelt description of what you’re going through will get overshadowed by your bosses natural human tendency to detect excuses. It may be unavoidable, but it’s certainly not ideal.

If you’ve had chronic, long-term anxiety, or if you haven’t had your current boss for very long, it’s possible all they’ve ever seen of you is your freaked-out, anxious self. If this is your situation, I feel your pain–but it does present an opportunity. Imagine the surprise and delight your boss will have when your relative job performance skyrockets as professional medical intervention helps get your anxiety under (relative) control. Underpromise-and-overdeliver is a good strategy. A bout of anxiety is definitely not a good tactic to get there, but like many things, it can work out well in the end.

No matter what you decide, don’t let the depths of anxiety wear you down. There’s a close link between anxiety and depression, and no wonder. Having a chunk of your soul constantly drained away is depressing. During the good times, be sure to write down what it feel like, particularly in terms of contrasts and the wonderful feeling of the darkness giving way to a new dawn.

The set of treatments available–those involving medication and those that don’t–are more potent than ever. Don’t suffer in silence. Find help, make a plan, and get on with winning at life.

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