I was 21 the first time I had a nervous breakdown at work. It was my first job out of college, working retail at a flagship shoe store in Manhattan. One task was to stand in the doorway, smile, and greet customers. Sounds easy enough, right? Usually it was, but other times, when I was going through depressive phases or masking an anxiety attack, forcing a smile felt like having teeth pulled.
I’d stand fidgeting with my name tag, quietly saying hello to customers, giving my best close-lipped smile, trying my best to look charming without breaking down. A new manager-in-training approached me, and I knew some criticism was coming. They rarely approached employees to say, “Good work.” I was right. He told me to speak louder and smile.
Tears started welling and I speed-walked downstairs to the bathroom. Slumping down to the floor, I sobbed. I cried so hard I thought I was going to vomit. Faking happiness for eight hours a day was nearly impossible, and I didn’t have the energy to pretend I was OK for a second longer. Once I’d gotten rid of most most of the tears, I went back upstairs and asked an older manager if we could talk in his office. Continue reading A Millennial’s Guide to Mental Illness in the Workplace