Please take a walk through my mind

Yesterday I met a recruitment agency who told me that 50% of my time is spent at work. It better be something that I enjoy. Well, I am amongst many who are doing their best at whatever they are doing at the moment but have no clue about their “life’s purpose”.

Currently, I am working on improving the mental health scene in India. This year’s World Mental Health day theme is Mental health in the workplace. Ah, workplace! The place I talk in great detail while hunting for a job as a kingdom I built. In reality, I have always felt like an imposter. I have had so many lunches alone. Some days I couldn’t gather the courage to talk to someone.

Other days, I wanted to give a tour of my mind to someone. If only, someone could walk through the museum of my thoughts, tragedies, relationships and moments of feeling that I can conquer anything. They could then take their time to see the exact moment from my point of view. But sadly, it is not San Junipero where I can download my mind and upload it somewhere else. I wished some days people working with me, my boss and my friends, the people I hate and love at work would magically understand my feelings. For instance, when my boyfriend pulled a ‘Honey! I am going to get smokes’ at the time of my promotion. In case you don’t know, it is the universal expression of your partner leaving the house for good. Well, mine at least left for good. It took me some therapy and a lot of working on the mental health to realise that.

“Why, yes, of course, I can attend the meeting at 9:30 pm tonight!” I told my boss that day.

No, I would not rather stuff myself with everything I can find or binge watch Narcos at night. I would attend this client meeting. And yes, I wouldn’t even show a tear in office while handling a team of 22 engineers. God forbid, they see their girl boss crying. That was the real bummer. At the office, I can easily say I have the flu and hence my eyes are red this morning. I can never say that I have been thinking about how and when my father learned to swim which made me cry this morning. To give some context, he died of a heart attack 3 years ago. Anywho, why are we so afraid to share what we really feel, with people at work? Because of course, our future depends on it.

We all have an image to maintain. This, of course, comes with an endless burden of living up to that image. My earlier company had a solution for my emotions in the form of a helpline for employees. Any feelings of anxiety, anger towards your boss or colleagues, self-pity for not being able to reach your highest potential, fear of HR, not getting along with family or partner could be discussed with just an automated call with this magical helpline. I spent 4 years with it. Just looking at the toll-free number and always thinking if they would tell my manager that I had a fight with my mother. Would the entire team know? I never made the call.

We work from a co-working space, the mecca for startups. I see around me the constant pressure to be the next Airbnb, Uber, Amazon and so on. There is also constant shop talk.

 

“Did you hear, Night king raised 90 Million in their next round?”
“Jamie just sold his company to Twitter.”

There are also thousands of people anxious about everything. I am one of them. Pressure to excel is immense. I have interviewed so many developers who are constantly worried and are paid ridiculously low salaries to sustain themselves. I often ask them, “What comes to your mind when you hear the words mental health?” Most people reply, yoga!

There is a continuous buzz about the product launch. Free suggestions from all your MBA friends about how you should build your product. The most amazing one from your family that you are giving them anxiety all the time by not doing the right thing. “Why do you want to talk about mental health?” Few people really help while you founder your way to build a startup.

You touched a nerve. Now, what do I do?

My dear working bee, seek help. This could be anything from taking the time to find a moment of calm, silently reflect on things to finding someone who understands what you are going through. This is mostly your partner or friends. Find someone to bounce off your ideas and feelings.

Be open to talking to a professional

It’s the same as seeking a doctor for your flu or signing up for mentorship in your company or for your startup. Everyone around me was either too nice or not available to really give me the lessons I needed to learn. Therapy helped me open up and be aware of myself. It is also always a good idea not to torture my boyfriend in moments of despair but have someone rational to narrate my thoughts too and come to solution myself.

Give back

If someone you know or care about, is recently not behaving as they normally would or haven’t been themselves. First, calm yourself down, get into the good headspace and wisely choose your moment. We as social being love human connection. We need it even more so when we are feeling like ourselves. Simple, show support and listen. Be also prepared to follow up.

“Would like to go on a coffee break?”
“You just don’t look like yourself lately.”

Just asking someone is the simplest way to give back and start a conversation. Let’s change the dreary workplace and actually find some people to connect with at a place where we spend 50% of our time.