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What do you do when depression affects work?

When you have the flu, you stay home for a few days.
Stomach bug, you stay home that day. Maybe the day after.
Migraine or some other intermittent issue--you take a few hours off, at least. Just until you can mostly function again.

(These are all assuming you have sick/vacation time from your employer. We're not even getting into "what to do when you don't have time off...)

But what do you do when your illness that makes your bones ache even though you don't have a fever? An illness that makes it hard to walk, to move, to think?

In Mental Health First Aid training, there is an exercise where individuals, each holding a piece of paper with a diagnosis, are supposed to line up according to how debilitating/disabling the condition is, how much it prevents people from interacting with others and moving through life.

Severe depression beats out allergies, non-invasive breast cancer, and even blindness and deafness. That's how disabling it can be.

And yet depressed people are expected to cheer up, buttercup! and show up to work. They still must scrape together energy to feed their family, care for pets, get groceries, go to doctor appointments, take their little one out to burn energy at a playground.

Everything is so daunting. Even sitting up straight takes too much energy, even though slouching over the keyboard is painful. You weigh your options when you need to go to the bathroom--do I really need to go, or can I save my energy and hold my bladder for a little longer?

When life is like this, how can you work?

One step at a time. One day at a time. One hour at a time, if needed.

One step in front of the other, to the bus stop.

One hour of work at a time, before a break.

One day at a time. For what feels like forever, until medication changes take effect. Until it lifts of its own accord.

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