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'Covering' Do you do it?

Senior Contributor

'Covering' Do you do it?

I saw Troy Roderick speak today about diversity and Telstra's journey. It covered all the usual stuff you expect from these presentations except he mentioned something new I've never heard of. 

He talked about that someone with a problem that can be stigmatised that isn't immediately obvious can be covered by that person. He used mental illness as an example. What was interesting here was that he wasn't so much talking about mental illness per se but rather the problem that people feel the need to cover it up because of stigma. The other example was being gay. You could be a white male with no obvious source of stigma but still have to 'cover up' who you are. 

Troy went on to talk about how much energy this takes for that person - energy that could be better put into things like their work. Let alone the angst it causes. 

So what do people think about this idea? Ring home? Anything else spring to mind? 


Senior Contributor

Re: 'Covering' Do you do it?

@mrkotter. An interesting post. I don't cover up my having MI. But I do hide behind a happy face sometimes, pretending I'm doing better than I am. And that is exhausting and then leads to negative self talk and therefore further depression.
I guess lots of people can hide parts of their personality - especially in the workplace.
When I worked - I was professional, great at time management, kept everything in it's rightful place, etc.
At home - I'm not houseproud, and my time management skills suck. So I guess there are different levels of 'hiding'.
Senior Contributor

Re: 'Covering' Do you do it?

To me I 'cover up' a lot. Well, pretty much all the time. My bipolar is well under control but my moods do still vary and by more than average. Some times I just want to be left alone, like anyone else I guess. The thing is I'm used to it and I can still work. I know this because I know I'm kick arse at what I do.

I've just spent the last two days at an event. All my sessions went well and I made all the connections I needed. All the time feeling a cross between flat and down. But I still feel the need to cover up. Why? Shouldn't I be able to say 'yep, not ok but I'm still performing.' Why do I feel that won't be accepted? Even though I've just done really well.

I had a dinner tonight that's just a social thing. With all my work done the last thing I wanted to do was to be social with others. Yet, there I was going because I felt if I said something that would reflect badly on me to say 'hey I need some time for me'. So like a lot of us I went and made my excuses at the first opportunity and left. I might cop some flack for doing this, I'm not sure, which sucks. 

I'm just so sick of this. It's total bs. I don't consider my bipolar at the moment as an illness because its not affecting normal functioning but I'm still so afraid so I cover it up. What makes this even worse is that my boss knows my diagnosis but I don't feel comfortable talking to her about this at all and she's pretty cool. I'm tired of appearing happy and chirping when I'm anything but just to make sure people don't think I can't do my job. 

I desperately want this to be different. Not just for me. Not only do I spend so much time and energy keeping this charade up I feel like betraying my own values. Well, at best I'm lying to everyone around me. I want to draw a line in the sand on this. I'm tired. We have such a stilted picture of mental illness (especially at the serious end) in this country. 

Senior Contributor

Re: 'Covering' Do you do it?

utopia wrote:
@mrkotter. An interesting post. I don't cover up my having MI. But I do hide behind a happy face sometimes, pretending I'm doing better than I am. And that is exhausting and then leads to negative self talk and therefore further depression.

Hey @utopia that's exactly what Troy was talking about - you felt like you needed to 'cover up' or 'hide' what's going on and that leads to the exhaustion and negative self talk you experienced. 

This isn't right. How can it be? If you are still just as productive as ever how is it ok that you feel need to hide how you feel because you might be stigmatised? Not wanting to talk about it because you don't feel like sharing is perfectly ok but this isn't.

Community Elder

Re: 'Covering' Do you do it?

YEP @mrkotter triggers me a lot ..

3 big words ... "SCHIZOPHRENIA, SUICIDE, ORPAHNAGE .. cant say without serious negative social ... and stigmatic consequences.

I knew that from my 20s  .. tho my son did not .. and it did stuff up some of his socialising.

I experimented as much as I could ... with saying .. with not saying ... etc ...

I managed to contain it in 1:1 in my teaching studio .. during 25 years part-time teaching, but in the end have SPAT the dummy and not that desperate to cater to middleclass pretensions .. even at the expense of my income.


.. my kids material needs are well and truly met .. I can live on the smell of an oily rag for protracted periods of time  1/2 pension ..... I still am grateful to Centrelink .. and to Social Security .. we have to figure out our LIFESTYLE CHOICES.

I  kind of let private & declared business go .. seeing what else happens ...doing music just for me atm.

Community Guide

Re: 'Covering' Do you do it?

I don't see this as lying nor that I'm betraying my own values. For me it's a coping mechanism. I'm open about my bipolar with all the people who I work with but they don't need to know every little mood change either.

Other people in the team don't necessarily give all the rip roaring details about the row they had with their spouse that morning even if they're a bit quieter than usual. I see mood fluctuations as being in much the same category. If I'm really unwell though I say so.

Take care 🎶
Senior Contributor

Re: 'Covering' Do you do it?

@Kurra that's a really good point you raise Kurra. And I totally agree with it. I don't want to go around telegraphing every mood change. That would be weird, and really awkward. 

I guess for me it's a little bit more like I need more of an explicit acceptance of that my moods do change a little but that doesn't affect my output. I'm tired of having to either 1) put a face on it when I'm a little down or 2) Having second guess what others might think all the time if I'm a little up. All the while knowing that how I'm feeling has no impact on my work performance. 

I just want an acceptance of who I am without having to hide who I am anymore. My illness is part of me and I am a part of it. I cannot push it to one side. I just can't, that's not acting in line of my values. Am I going to go round with a billboard with a mood chart saying how I feel that day? No. But I don't want to be made to feel like I need to hide it anymore because I think it might harm my professional reputation. 

Quite seriously 'covering up' is affecting my work performance more than the illness itself. All that time and energy wasted trying to be happy when I'm clearly not. Or trying to hide how productive I am because I'm a little up. I just want to be me and for my colleagues to be able to say 'that's just Alex and it's all good he's got his shit together and the work will get done'. 

We have so many examples of people that have done really well while having a serious mental illness so why are we stuck in this world of thinking it's all bad in the workplace even though that may not be the case for a particular individual? 

Community Guide

Re: 'Covering' Do you do it?

The way I see this and would certainly approach it in this manner if it were me feeling like that:
1. I'd be questioning myself. Is this perceived 'need to cover up' a reflection of the attitudes of the people around me?
2. Is this perceived need to cover up self imposed. If so how can I set about changing this?
3. If this problem is coming from within how can I face my fear so that I can 'just be me'.
I find the phrase 'bad hair day' very useful. Everyone has bad hair days.
4. Am I being unnecessarily super sensitive because of a word/diagnosis - bipolar? How can I change my sensitivity?
5. Is it possible that I haven't fully accepted my diagnosis even though to all intents and purpose I am well. Most people have all sorts of insecurities hidden away from the world. They don't speak about them because they're embarrassed /ashamed /feel stupid - whatever.
You get the drift.

I personally find it important to understand that regardless of the number of hours we spend in the workplace, we still don't know a great deal about the people we work with @mrkotter. Even our nearest and dearest don't tell us everything.
5. Is my assessment of my productivity realistic?
6. Is it really important to me what other people think as long as I know I'm performing well. Yes it would be nice but does it really matter? Etc etc. ...

If you want to bash it around perhaps you could make an appointment with your psychologist or alternatively work through it here.

Recently I got a slight chip on my shoulder because I work hard and achieve a lot the hasn't in my opinion been acknowledged. What I now understand is that I'm feeling good with what I've done then that's what really matters to me. I could have retired last year and applied for a govt pension. I'm starting a new job in the same organisation. Think about it. If I wasn't valued I would certainly have been offered a VR in this current round.

The bottom line is that I have a job and I enjoy working. 🎶

I'm having one of those sleepless nights. I'm not getting in a tizz about it. I may just have to go to work with minimal sleep. It doesn't mean I'm starting to climb towards mania. It is what it is. A sleepless night / a night with minimal sleep.
Community Elder

Re: 'Covering' Do you do it?

You have such a great and wise attitude @Kurra

it was exactly those kinds of questions I was asking myself .. along with the difference in  interactions between .. phone and face to face ...

A recent female GP not current ... expressed concern that i was throwing away my career ...

I dont want to be risky for the sake of it ... and in the business of teaching young children .. caution around the issues is also wise ... so I guess I used my sense of appropriateness ,,, as my guide when dealing with all minors .. have working with children check and all that.  It was really interesting as a couple of parents ... gave me carte blanche to relate and say anything to their teenage daughters ...  I must have built up sufficient "appropriateness" over the years they were with me" to gain that extra degree of trust.

Yet for me as a whole person .. to feel I cannot just freely express myself and have to self censor .... for whatever reason ... for the good of the student .. for my reputation ... struggle with bad behaviour cos I have to earn money etc .. many reasons ..

is no longer necessary ... so I am branching out ... I guess .. brave new world.

Bottom line @Kurra

and a girl I first met in chem lab in Year 11 ... said this to me after she got soooper job with Centrelink ...

Everyone feels better working ... I know that.... you have been determined, worked hard and been a bit fortunate maybe .. I prefer that word to "stubborn" .  Stubborn implies more irrational willfulness  and immaturity.. than I am interested in.

.. so what are the obstacles for others?

.... and what is work?


Senior Contributor

Re: 'Covering' Do you do it?

@mrkotter. Today was my birthday. For the last 5 to 6 weeks I have been traveling really well. Woke up this morning and just felt flat and teary. Chirpy ph call from my mum. I told her it wasn't a good day. According to her I just needed to get up and get going & why was I feeling this way. I had no idea why today was a hard day. No triggers. So I told her I'm going back to bed.
I got up again at 2pm and went 'buggee it. I'll just get going'. Had people expected for dinner. So I scrubbed and cleaned my messy house, did the shopping, cooked the dinner.
If I didn't follow through and have my birthday party, I would be letting too maby people down. And my mum would have shown up anyway. She just wants to help.
The evening went well. But it was 4 hrs of cleaning and cooking for 2 & 1/2 hours of conversation. I did have a nice time.
Normally I would have canceled the dinner. I think because I was getting better & my support (friends and family) have been so happy to see me improve - that I just couldn't let them down. But it was exhausting.
Maybe that's it. Because we find a way of coping - our friends and family and co workers think we should be happy. And when we have an off day - we don't want to let anyone down.
What do you think?