Hax: 'Medical leave' is all you need to say

The Washington PostJanuary 7, 2014 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Carolyn: I'm a young professional with a decent office job. I generally like my co-workers. At work I am cheerful and friendly and, at least to the eye, a picture of perfect health.

But I'm also a recovering rape survivor who is battling an increasingly debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder. Recently things have gone downhill and I find myself at least once a day crying in the bathroom like a bad '80s prom night.

I am working with a therapist, doctor, etc., but things have become so overwhelming that I've decided I need to take a leave of absence from work to focus more intensely on my therapy and learn how to self-care again. I've talked to my boss about this and she is wonderfully supportive.

The question then becomes what to tell my co-workers? My boss said she'd be fine with just telling them I'm burned out and taking a long vacation (about five weeks), but I'm not comfortable with that, as my leaving gives everyone else more work and I don't want people to think I'm making things harder for them just for a bit of R&R.

The other option is, of course, to say "medical leave," but I feel like that's going to invite a lot of questions I can't bear to answer. Also worth noting, a lot of my co-workers are around my age and we are friendly outside of work to the point that I know intimate details of their life. I just can't deal with sharing this one of mine. Help?

Invisible Illness

"Medical leave" is the way to go, and it's the only explanation you need for mature acquaintances, who will have questions but also enough sense not to ask them. Those who aren't there yet will pry, yes, but the only answer required is "Thank you for your concern. It's a private matter." As for the more-than-acquaintances, "intimate details" crew, you can say you're sorry to be cryptic, and ask that they humor you on this and not press.

Some assurance that you're not in stage-4-cancer-type danger would be appropriate, too, worded as vaguely as you need. Take care.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service