The Unglamorous Truth Behind Working From Home When You Have a Mental Health Condition

Claire Sanguedolce | Brand Manager, Kip

The truth is, we’re all wired to connect with each other.

This article was originally published on Mind Share Partners' "Mental Health at Work" section on Thrive Global.

A few years ago, I found myself in a job with a schedule that most of my friends would have killed for.

I joined a well-respected technology company in Silicon Valley. My team worked from home more often than not, which meant that even if I did choose to embark on the two-hour Bart/CalTrain odyssey to work, it was rarely worth my time. I’d walk into a mostly empty office, my entire team working from their home offices, and I would have wasted four full hours of my day on public transportation. So, I worked from home most of the time, too.

At first, it was like a dream. I mean, who really wants to wake up at the crack of dawn and drink a disproportionate amount of coffee just so they can keep their eyes open during their long commute to work? Or sit in a cubicle all day when they could work from the comforts of their own home? And who really wants to put on pants?

Working from home, I could sleep till 9, roll over, grab my laptop, and answer emails from bed, propped up by a mountain of pillows.

Gone were the days when I’d wake up at 6am to blow-dry my hair and put on makeup.

So, why was I so depressed?

It started with an unshakable sense of unease. I’d wake to a racing heart and clammy hands, worried over what seemed like nothing. The anxiety and lack of structure made it difficult to focus on my work. I began to feel more and more like an imposter - was I really a communications specialist? Or was I just a fraud in pajamas and bedhead?

A terrifying loneliness began to grow inside of me. I tried to distract myself by working in nearby cafes. That made it worse. I found myself surrounded by people in business clothes meeting over coffee and there I was, sporting sweatpants and a baseball cap, feeling completely and utterly alone.

My enthusiasm toward my company dwindled due to the lack of face-to-face interactions with my team.

I yearned for connection, intelligent conversations, or even just somebody with whom I could share lunch. I felt incredibly entitled - why didn’t I appreciate my freedom?

But here’s the thing: Humans need to be around other humans. Research by neuroscientists reveals that loneliness can result in actual physical pain. Other studies show that isolation raises levels of stress hormones and inflammation in the body and leads to poor sleep, a compromised immune system, and cognitive decline. And it’s no secret that solitary confinement inflicts a heavy toll on the mental health of inmates.

Still, I had no immediate solution. So here’s what I did to support my mental health while working from home.