I've been pondering this, and it's taken me a while to be able to articulate it. I'm still pondering.
A while back, Jeff informed out department that he's newly diagnosed with depression and is under a doctor's care for it.
A short while later, Jeff asked me if I couldn't find someone else to take his spot in the committee I chaired. I emailed back that Jack could ask around, but that I didn't think anyone else was looking for more committee work, since we're all pretty overloaded. I declined to undertake to find a new committee member.
And later still, a colleague mentioned that he'd taken over a different task for Jeff for the term. I expressed my, well, irritation. And the colleague explained that as we all knew, Jack's suffering from depression, and ill, and the colleague would have helped another colleague with any other illness, right? And I had to admit, that s/he made perfect sense.
So here's the thing. I've helped do things when colleagues have been ill. I've filled in teaching a class for a colleague who took parental leave for a while. I try to be a decent person.
I do recognize, logically, that depression is an illness. BUT, and here's the problem, I reacted emotionally as if it's NOT an illness, but some sort of failing or laziness.
Why is that? Why do I react negatively? Is it because "depression" has become so overused that I don't quite believe it on some level?
I know a number of my colleagues are on medication and/or seeing therapists for depression, etc. Does my response come from thinking that if everyone who's depressed needs other people to cover his/her work in some way, that some of us will be slammed even more than we are now?
How is depression different from other chronic health problems, if at all?
When I think back, one of the things I'm most ashamed of in my life is treating a mentally ill friend with great impatience. I couldn't wrap my head around her difficulty, and was harsh. And I'm still bothered by that. Most things in my life, I don't greatly regret, but that one time, that I regret.
But even though my reaction to Jeff isn't as big, it's the same basic response. And I don't like that in me at all.