I dared to talk about my anxiety to my boss

I dared to talk about my anxiety to my boss

My name is Martin Binette, and I am a Senior Director at Relief.

Relief is a non-profit organization supporting people living with anxiety, depression, and bipolarity, as well as their loved ones, so they can keep moving forward.

I myself am a person living with generalized anxiety.

I speak about it publicly more easily today, but it hasn't always been that way, especially in the workplace.

living with anxiety

But before talking about it publicly, it's 20 years of silence, 20 years of suffering.

I especially remember in the context of work, I regularly had panic attacks.

I had anxiety that was constantly through the roof. My anxiety was largely generated by performance.

That is, I had to give presentations, prepare things, and speak in front of an audience, which caused me a lot of anxiety.

I remember having a great fear of being judged in a performance context where you are surrounded by people who professionally want your success and the company's success.

You don't want to appear weak, you cannot fail, and you don't want to be judged as inadequate. So, I kept it to myself.

I had a lot of difficulty talking about it.

There were times when I remember finding ways to avoid facing the pressure of presenting in front of clients or even a group, sometimes just three or four people.

And I remember coming home completely exhausted, sleeping poorly, and crying so much because it hurt so much.

Until the day I decided to talk to just one person about it.

I took the chance to talk to my boss, but I said chance because I was so afraid of losing my job because my role revolved around this performance.

And when I spoke to him, I expected to be rejected, judged, or even told, "You're not cutting it and you're going to be fired."

I remember Francois welcomed me and listened to me. I remember breaking down in tears, saying, "Francois, it's painful. I can't deliver."

And I remember those words at the time; he looked at me and said, "Martin, it's okay, we'll work together. We'll succeed together."

And that were comforting words.

Perhaps the first words of comfort I heard that truly made a huge difference.

And he sat down with me, and we came up with an action plan to try to improve myself.

There was even a time when the anxiety was so immense that François took over for me. He said, "I'll take your place, but we'll still work to make smaller groups so that you can speak in front of people."

And he was the first person outside of my family circle to really witness the efforts I was making to try to fight against this anxiety and panic attacks.

His support was vital moving forward because despite taking a leave of absence for various reasons, personal problems, and work pressure, my boss, who had helped me, was still there during my absence.

He supported me, and it gave me the courage to go further in my journey.

I remember August 11th, 2014, I was at home on leave, and I was doing better.

I was preparing to return to work in the early fall, and something quite troubling happened, not just in my life, but in the lives of many people.

Robin Williams passed away; he took his own life.

And at that moment, I felt the need to put a word on it.

I felt the need to speak openly about this and make a public appeal by saying: it's normal, everyone experiences ups and downs.

Living with mental illness is not a stigma, it's not a curse, it's something that everyone will probably experience firsthand or indirectly in their life, whether rich or poor, at work or on leave, man or woman.

We are not immune to mental illness; we are not immune to a storm.

And when I made this post on social media, I was 100% convinced that I would not have done it if I had not received the support of people around me, my family circle, and François, my boss.

It gave me the strength to go further in my approach and speak openly about it.

And it instilled a kind of confidence that I would be received positively, which is what happened.

For me, without François, I probably wouldn't have made this public release, I would have probably kept it to myself for years.

And the support of my boss was vital, not only in speaking openly about it, but also in my recovery.

Because when I returned to work, I was greeted by the same boss and I felt comfortable telling him how I felt and how I was doing.

And when things weren't going well, I knew he was there to listen.

And that, for me, was vital and important in my recovery.

a story among many others

My story is a story among many others.

In Canada, over 60% of employees live with a mental illness, yet they won't talk to their manager about it for fear of being judged, labeled, sidelined, and even dismissed.

At Relief, we can change that by providing resources to create healthy and safe work environments for all employees, managers, and even senior executives.

And with your help, we can do even more now.

Donate to Relief

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