My own experience of postpartum anxiety and recovering from breast cancer have helped shape my approach to mental health and the behavior I model for my teams. Back in 2013, after my daughter was born prematurely, I had a very hard time with anxiety. I couldn’t sleep, I constantly worried about my daughter, and couldn’t leave her side at the beginning. While I was able to tell leaders and co-workers what I was experiencing, I don’t think at the time the mental health aspect of what I was going through was fully understood. I was advised to get back-up care and told that what I was feeling was the usual worry of a first-time mom. I was able to work with human resources to find a remote internal role that allowed me to be physically close to my daughter and worked through my anxiety with the help of a therapist sourced through Deloitte’s employee assistance program (EAP). I think my experience was typical of a time when the mental health aspect of life events was not well understood and not fully considered in the workplace.
This was also apparent when I had cancer. As you can imagine, surviving breast cancer took an emotional as well as physical toll, and I experienced depression as a result. People at work were very thoughtful and protective of me, but it was easier to focus on the physical impact of the disease rather than its mental health component.
And outside of work, I had a similar experience with family–especially because mental health isn’t widely discussed in the African American community. My mom would encourage me to be strong and was fearful that me being depressed would mean I wouldn’t survive the cancer.