#44: Return to work

This week’s update includes a delightful visit, my experience with a remote office space, and apprehensions about working in our corporate office.

These weekly updates are an ongoing series in which I share what it is like to live with OCD in an effort to reduce the stigma around mental health, particularly in the workplace.

Sketch of recliner

Last week I had a special treat. My boss, Mel Tingey, came down to see my office space and to have a one-to-one over lunch. I have mentioned before that he is one of the best bosses I have ever worked for. My family loves him, mostly from his personal support during my breakdown and recovery. My kids still talk about the time he sent my wife flowers while I was staying away from home during OCD treatment.

I have also mentioned my office space before. It has been a huge help and blessing to have this space. A large part of my mental struggles with my OCD are around my family and feeling that I have to be a perfect husband and father.

When my company mandated that we work from home, I was excited in many ways. Prior to working for 0.C. Tanner, I worked fully remote for Balsamiq. With a growing family and young children, I appreciated the flexibility.

But as I worked from home this time, I was more in tune with my mental state. I found that being home all the time and being interrupted occasionally and bearing the normal ruckus and chaos of family life was hard. Really hard.

My therapist suggested that I look for a place away from home to be able to work alone. It has been one of the greatest moves for my well-being. In addition to being the most conducive place I have ever found to get work done, it has served as something of a sanctuary on more than one occasion. When I am completely overwhelmed or overstimulated at home and starting to have panic attacks, having a quiet, dark, comfortable place has allowed me to cope and recover.

I have needed space to recover from anxiety or panic during work as well, particularly over the past few months. Responsibility weighs heavy occasionally, and I need a place to bring my nerves back down when anxiety flares up. OCD is an anxiety disorder after all.

One of the topics I discussed with my boss while he was here is our company’s hybrid return to work plan. We will be allowed to work remotely some, and mandated to be in the office on certain days as well. I told him some of my apprehension about returning to the office. We have a wonderful facility in general, but there is almost nowhere to go that is quiet and dark to be able to cope with inflamed anxiety and recover in private. Every available room is surrounded by glass.

I don’t plan on needing space to have panic attacks in private—that’s not the kind of thing you ever plan on. I try not to be afraid that I will have them, because the fear of the fear is often worse and can bring them on. However, not considering how I might handle a situation that has certainly happened in the part and is likely to happen again seems irresponsible.

All of that is to say that I am not particularly excited about having to work in the office again. My roles span a few different teams with varying levels of flexibility, so I don’t know how things will look for me.

As we continue to experience change and uncertainly, my continued hope is for extra compassion. Be kind to yourself and those around you. It is nearly impossible to know what they are going through.


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