In a world where social media platforms are so omnipresent in our lives, it may seem at times that there isn’t anything we don’t share. We share where we go, who we are with, what we are eating, who we are fighting with, we share seemingly everything. We document it with pictures and check-ins, retweets and comments.
For those of us who have been diagnosed with and are treating a mental disorder, we constantly have to ask ourselves, how much is too much to share? For each of the small, incremental gains that we as a society have made when it comes to mental health, there are still negative connotations toward mental health care and towards those who deal with it daily. There is still a great amount of ignorance, misinformation and still negative stereotypes that exist.
In December of last year, as I was completing the partial hospitalization program following a major depressive event, I decided that the time had come for me to make a job change. It was just time. The things I had learned about myself through those days of intensive therapy were life changing. I recognized that I had been in crisis for several months, that I had made a tremendous amount of mistakes at work, and most importantly, it just wasn’t right for me and what I needed going forward.
In January of this year, I began to take meetings and interviews. I started talking with companies about my joining their team. There have been some exciting opportunities that I have discussed, and some discussions that didn’t last 5 mintues.
But what I have had to decide at each step of the way, was how much do I tell these people about what I need to be successful? How much do we talk about my needing an afternoon a week for therapy appointments? How much do I let them in on the small little things that I have to have to make me the best me?
Normally, that would be a huge stressor in searching for new job. Do I say something, mention something or ask for something that may end up eliminating me from consideration? “Well, I can put therapy off for a couple of weeks”, “Ok, I don’t really have to have that time to get away from my desk for 15 minutes during the day”, “Oh, that commute isn’t that bad, I will just leave at 5:30am to beat the traffic.” It is so difficult when you are having to balance needs (a job, income) against what you need (whatever your self care plans require.)
Yet this has been anything but a “typical” job search for me. In fact, from January up through now, calling this a job search is a bit misleading. In fact, I haven’t searched at all. Really, it has been more like I have been interviewing companies.
We were fortunate in that we had the resources for me to take the time I needed to recover and take care of me. I have been fortunate in that we had rainy day plans so we were in a position to handle this financially with little to no impact of how we live our lives.
When I made the announcement, I had several people reach out to me from the industry that I was leaving. Though I did wind up talking with a few of them, there was nothing that interested me in the least as far as companies that I wanted to work for. My network of former colleagues, customers, people I knew in a professional capacity were sending leads and information my way. Over the course of the last 3 months, I wound up in heavy discussions and negotiations with 2 companies. I have been offered employment by both of those companies. I have also declined both offers.
The first was a good offer, in fact a little bit of a pay raise for me overall, but I just couldn’t get comfortable with the people that I would be working with most closely. Seemed like very competent in their work, very smart guys, but I didn’t mesh with them well at all. We just don’t have the same personalities. While I could have grown to like the work and the people, I just didn’t ever feel comfortable with them through 3 meetings and a long lunch.
The second offer was a lot more serious and both sides had invested a tremendous amount of time during the course of the discussions. I met with them twice here in Atlanta, flew to Virginia to meet the owner of the company, then 3 more meetings in Atlanta. The work fascinated me and it would have meshed well with my strengths. On the surface, it was a great fit and I was very interested. I started researching them as a company, their products and even made the drive over to where my office would be at different times of the morning to see what my commute would truly look like. They were as interested in me as I was them.
Over the course of those last 2 meetings, I decided to share with them a little bit of who I am, what I have been through, and the small things I would be asking for as part of my compensation package. I told them about my therapy, I told them about my needs, we discussed these things in quite a bit of detail. We agreed to several things verbally that they didn’t bat an eye to. In fact, I had an offer by the end of the day of that conversation.
But opening the email that contained the offer letter, I knew my decision had already been made. I noticed that none of the personal items that I had asked for and had been granted verbally were in writing, in fact, they had simply left those off, and increased the pay. After reading the offer letter multiple times, taking the weekend to really consider their offer, I called to ask about the other things that we had discussed and wasn’t satisfied with the reasons given so I declined that offer as well.
I cannot, however, sit here and tell you that I didn’t panic when I sent that email declining the 2nd offer. It would have been a pay raise for me, and a noticeable one, and saying no to that kind of number briefly caused some “what the hell have I just done” moments after I sent it! But I had to make a decision that is best for me and what I need right now.
Yes, it has been scary at times, no matter how many times my wife tells me that all is ok. Yes there is the risk of the “right job” passing me by while I am not willing to compromise what is best for me. Yes there are people who think I have completely lost my mind for turning down either of these job offers, let alone both.
But what it has also done was to keep the door open to opportunities that weren’t available when this all started. Right now, I have two opportunities that are unfolding in front of me that I have decided to pursue. Both of which feed into my passions, either of which would be great for me and where I am in my life right now and both for entirely different reasons. Both of which would put me in a position to help people with the story of me, story of my family, and the story of my experiences, and they know about them. In fact, one of the opportunities came through someone reading this blog and reaching out to a friend of his.
So I will pursue these next 2 opportunities just like I did the others that I have considered. I will sell myself and why I am the absolute right person for the position and how I can help their organization. Then I will require them to sell themselves on why they are the best fit for me.
Ultimately, the job I decide to take may not be the highest paying position, or the one with the most impressive title, but it will be the one where I fit best, where I am most comfortable. I will ultimately choose the position that wants me, not their version of me.
Well, unless I panic between now and then!!!!
As always, please drop me a line through the comments section or through email (firstname.lastname@example.org) as I love to hear from others and share experiences.
Love Yourself First & Always,