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I work in a team of about 10 people, in a large office in a large organisation.

I sometimes get into bad spaces, where I stop exercising, eat badly, sleeping habits get shot etc, it's a self-destructive cycle. These spells are very much a vicious circle (wake up feeling bad, so continue eating unhealthily/don't go for exercise, feel worse, don't want to talk to people... etc) When this happens, the primary effect it has on work is that I lose focus (I work as an IT developer), I get to work late (we have flexible hours, so this isn't a huge problem, but still looks bad).

Now this has been an ongoing thing as part of my life, and the good news is, I appear to be getting better at managing it, in terms of recognising triggers, and turning things around before it gets too bad.

Now one thing is - I'm not sure that you can call this clinical depression. Certainly I haven't been diagnosed as such. I have talked to my GP about it before, and he said that I'd appear to be on the mild end of the spectrum.

Rather, we could possibly think of it in terms of addiction and habits. Think - somebody in the workplace who is a recovering alcoholic, who occasionally falls off the wagon, and who's workplace performance suffers then. The point here is, 'suffering from depressive spells' shouldn't be used as an excuse for bad work performance. It's my responsibility to improve myself, just as it would be my responsibility to upskill and make myself more valuable to an organisation.

My own assessment of my work ability and work ethic, is that I'm pretty good otherwise, in terms of being focused and work, producing high quality work, and contributing to the team. But that said, I pretty sure my colleagues also see me as a bit flakey, after I come in late etc. I think that they can probably see both sides, the guy who does work hard, and produces good work, and the guy who also comes in late and appears to be not focused.

Now, one of the things in terms of managing these spells, is talking about it. The reason for this, is that the thing that makes it worse, is being embarrassed about it, and so withdrawing further and becoming more socially isolated. By talking to others about it ('I had a bad weekend, felt depressed, and ate badly'), you can get some perspective and realise 'This really isn't so bad', and move on from it.

I've been in one of these spells for the last week. I took one sick day, and turned up late on a couple of the days.

I'm considering talking to my colleagues about it. There are two reasons why I might do so.

1) To explain why my work performance is sometimes of kilter.

2) For my own managing of these spells.

I don't mean that I would broadcast 'Oh hey, I have these depressive spells lolz'. But rather, if I'm talking to a colleague who I trust and they ask how my weekend was, perhaps mentioning then that I've been in a bad space for the past week.

There's also whether I mention it to my team leader.

The concern is, that this simply isn't appropriate for a workplace, and that managing my moods is simply my own personal responsibility, not something for my colleagues to have to worry about. I can always talk to other people (ie friends) about it.

marked as duplicate by jmac, jcmeloni, gnat, CMW, CincinnatiProgrammer Jan 21 '14 at 13:44

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  • @JoeStrazzere - Yes - this might be right. If my team leader for example, mentions that I seem to have been off focus, then I could mention it then. Otherwise, given that I'm otherwise managing it, it seems that it's more likely to spoil/muddy things than anything. – user10911 Jan 20 '14 at 21:18
  • Yeah, you probably kinda know what you should do (like a feeling), but you just want to be heard out and share your experience here with others to see if everyone else feels similar. That's a good thing to do, keep reaching out, especially on any opportunities that present themselves in real life. – David d C e Freitas Jan 20 '14 at 23:29
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Your colleagues - NO.

Your team lead - maybe. Only if your recovery efforts will present challenges to getting the job done, i.e. you need to attend AA or group meetings, you need to be positioned / not positioned in a certain place in the office, you need to visit the doctor, etc. But nobody wants to hear your drama - it's yours and yours alone. People have their own stuff to deal with and they know that you're human just as they are. The key here is making sure that anything someone else knows is about you getting better, and not about you getting worse.

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What expectations do you have from your co-workers once you've told them this news? Are you expecting them to keep track of your mood enough to know when you have one of these spells? Are you expecting them to give you slack when you do have one of these spells? This is the part missing from this question as while I do have anxiety and depression that has been diagnosed, I'm not sure I can say I know what changes in my work environment I'd want as a result. My field of expertise is web development so in a way I may be a person of a similar position.

Now, for a point of contrast, I also have Sleep Apnea that is bad enough that I can have the occasional falling asleep during the day at work. In this case, I tend to be upfront in most of my positions now and have had positive responses since this occurs infrequently, I do have therapies that are mostly effective but not 100%, and I can spell out what to do when it happens.

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It's kinda like saying "Should I tell my boss I sometimes fall ill with diarrhoea?" My initial feeling is that the answer is no, there are sick leave days given for times when we aren't fit for work, talking about it is a bit obvious and would be weird to me personally.

If you feel you aren't fit for the required number of hours of work vs personal time, then you should tell them that you might need to take off a few months a year for medical reasons, you just won't be paid for those times of course, and if it they aren't happy with you being out of action for long periods then they don't have to keep you onboard.

  • @geekrunnings, Reading your question again, I can relate to the whole cycle thing. What helps me is when I realise that everyone has bad times, we can't avoid them in life, people die, children gets sick, bad things happen etc but like you say, talking & sharing it makes the load much much lighter as we are social people. Actually, you sound like you are aware of your triggers and weaknesses, which is great, you can turn that into your favour. – David d C e Freitas Jan 20 '14 at 23:22
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    @geekrunnings, If I were you I would go talk to a psychologist (not the drug giving types), it's not that bad as it sounds, it's relieving and you'll be suprised how many people do it and you don't even know they are going to speak to someone. See it as maintenance for your car, but for your well being. Asking the question on the internet is OK, but don't expect to get too many really meaningful or loving answers back from the people here. The format makes a big difference, and speaking to someone in person can make things really feel lighter on your shoulders. – David d C e Freitas Jan 20 '14 at 23:24
  • @geekrunnings, if you have a good friend at work, speak to them a bit, ask them if they remember a time when they were dissatisfied with work perhaps. I was surprised that even the colleagues I looked up to as solid actually had hard times too and went through things that were more turbulent and confusing and lonely than I could have imagined. – David d C e Freitas Jan 20 '14 at 23:26