Moving Forward After Mental Illness

By Stuart McAulay — August 06, 2013

The concept of moving forward helps us to discover new opportunities in the days ahead and put back into practice our successes from days past. This applies directly to our personal lives as they mesh with our professional activities.

Mental illness in its various forms continues to erode our sense of duty and overall productivity in the Canadian workplace. Both personal and corporate stressors have become the norm as many of us continue to navigate a losing battle with our circumstances.

Last year, I shared a series of articles pertaining to my own experience with the prickly subject of mental illness in an effort to downplay its stigma and to gently promote its complex reality. Several months have passed since working through those daunting reflections, and I am thankful to report that I have turned a corner for the better in my own path to recovery. It was only earlier this year that the right choice of medication seemed to help lift the dark cloud that had clearly overstayed its welcome as an overwhelming influence on my thoughts and feelings. Unfortunately, a simple diversion to medication is not the stand-alone answer to recovery from symptoms of mental illness. The process towards recovery has also been dependent upon a careful dissection of influencing factors which are unique to each person. I remain fortunate that, after having several discussions with my employer similar to these thoughts that were put to paper, we were able to weather the storm together. We made difficult decisions involving the temporary suspension of my signing privileges and surrendering many of my duties to the rest of the team. We altered some plans that I was primarily involved with and ensured the continued operation of the business through others who agreed that personal recovery was paramount to a few inconvenient changes. I would suspect that the explanation of my condition was not fully recognized by those affected by these changes in routine, yet it was obvious that something of a supporting nature had to be done. I had, after all, been diagnosed with a severe depressive disorder that could no longer remain untreated. A sincere response from key individuals both in and out of work was necessary. If you struggle with, or think you may have, a depressive or anxiety disorder, let others in who are willing to help. Sincere human interaction is of more immediate value than relying upon your continued muted participation in routine activities.

One of the toughest steps in overcoming our own perception of stress overload is often misinterpreted as personal failure – a failure that we feel will be realized by letting our guard down with our peers who, we believe, should expect nothing less than our steady uninterrupted contributions to the workplace. Perhaps, when given the opportunity, many of them would provide support when called upon during times of difficulty. This can be very humbling, but it is also very necessary to the recovery process.  I had to go through the uncomfortable season of talking to my employer about how my unpredictable condition was affecting my contribution to the workplace. Though unfamiliar with the effects surrounding my mental health and wellbeing, my employer was ready to invest in a reasonable accommodation strategy that prioritized the person before the position and its associated duties. If you become affected by mental illness, keep on working through your circumstances with whatever hope you can muster and whatever encouragement is directed your way. If time away from work is necessary, keep on working on yourself. Be sure to keep up with doctor visits and any suggested counseling or therapy sessions. If you are able to continue in your job function, even with limitations, keep on working on that strategy until it can be shaped back into something more comfortable and normal. I would like to reinforce the thought that mental illness manifests itself in different ways for different people and that it is imperative to deal with any unusual feelings sooner rather than later. It is likely that someone dealing with chronic depression or compounding anxiety may fare better if steps are taken to intercede before it becomes a deep-rooted and uncomfortable concern.

Most cases of mental illness are treatable, given some time and positive inputs from family or friends, and yes, even a willing employer. Some cases may require the introduction to, and continued use of, new medications, whereas some of us may react better to cognitive therapies and/or lifestyle changes. Part of the mystery of why we get depressed continues into recovery as we are unsure of which recourse will be most effective for a select individual. I am now performing as normal, yet am also aware of the need to continue my improved responses to everyday stressors.

It’s all about moving forward, even when it seems like a formidable mission. By all means, continue to seek expertise and heed the recommendations of doctors and therapists. Good ones can work with you to effect the best changes possible based upon your circumstance. Employers, as well as employees, should begin to realize the effects of these most unpleasant mental conditions while working towards informed and capable responses to those in need.

The reality of mental illness and its effect on aircraft maintenance deserves further study in the same realm as other advanced human factor principles. This type of condition does not just go away, nor can we afford to ignore these debilitating symptoms any longer. The experiences and outdated attitudes of our past must be transformed into the realities of today and continue in the essence of actively moving forward in support of our peers. As life happens, we are not immune to its emotional influences, but it is our courageous resolve that permits us to forge ahead in a discreet manner. I trust that anyone relating to or affected by the issues from this series will be encouraged to talk more, listen more, and realize that we are not alone in working things out.

About The Author

Stuart McAulay

Stuart McAulay resides near Cambridge, Ontario and enjoys the Brantford Flying Club.

View all articles by Stuart McAulay.