May 2023 is mental health awareness month, coinciding with a date that seemed so far off, possibly even unobtainable, five years ago. May 17, 2018, changed my life forever. It was the day I was sitting in my office and answered my phone to my doctor saying, “I’m sorry, Ms. Bailey, but the diagnosis is cancer.” Leiomyosarcoma to be exact.
Receiving life-changing news certainly can affect your mental health. It’s not easy to separate your personal and business lives when your situation is sometimes mentally incapacitating. As an employer or co-worker, it’s difficult to know how to help an employee or co-worker facing a major life-altering event. Below are a few examples of how my Sain family and clients supported me, which has been a true blessing.
Allowing for alternate work hours and location.
My situation required a lot of time away from the traditional office. I am so grateful for being able to work through my treatments as it provided me the routine, stability, and everyday normalcy that I craved. My co-workers were great at adjusting to calls and virtual meetings.
Saying, “I’m going to do this for you,” rather than, “Let me know what to do.”
Everyone wants to help, but knowing what to do is difficult. The best help I received was from those who were intuitive and jumped in to handle specific things they knew they could take off me without me even having to think about what help I might need. I had co-workers say they would mow my lawn, bring my family dinner, handle urgent project issues, call clients, answer staff questions on my projects to keep things moving, stand in for me at meetings, etc. If you want to help, remember you are all on the same team. Even if it’s not your direct responsibility, your struggling teammate will appreciate your selflessness and willingness to sacrifice your time and energy for the betterment of the team. Knowing my team had my back and would not let anything fall through the cracks on my projects was wonderful.
Sending countless letters, texts, emails, and calls.
I once heard a pastor say that if you are thinking about a person, tell them. Your simple text could be exactly what that person needs at that exact moment. I’m a firm believer in this. If you don’t know what to say, keep it simple: “I’m thinking about you.” I assure you; it means a lot to the person receiving it.
Know the person’s limitations.
I came into the office briefly on certain days, even throughout treatment, wearing my mask. I was extremely nervous around people as I knew my immunity was low. My co-workers were extremely courteous. They would socially distance, wear their masks while in the same room, and even tell me they were avoiding me if they had cold-like symptoms.