Wallowing on the way to wholeness
By Andy Howie
I admire Madalyn Parker and I admire her boss, Ben Congleton too.
Madalyn is a web developer, who has lived with mental health challenges for many years. One day she decided that, for health reasons, she needed a day off work and wrote an email to her colleagues:
‘Hey team, I’m taking today and tomorrow to focus on my mental health. Hopefully I’ll be back next week refreshed and back to 100%
Madalyn’s CEO, Ben, wrote this back:
‘Hey Madalyn, I just wanted to personally thank you for sending emails like this. Every time you do, I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health — I can’t believe this is not standard practice at all organisations. You are an example to us all, and help cut through the stigma so we can all bring our whole selves to work.’
What an unusual and enlightened attitude. I’m impressed by Madalyn’s self awareness and pleasantly surprised by her CEO’s appreciation of her honesty. At Space2think we applaud this approach, and have tried to model it within our own organisation by being open with one another and truthfully acknowledging tough times. We try to respond by listening, with a healthy and appropriate curiosity. Like Ben Congleton, we believe that our productivity is enhanced when we bring our whole selves to work, and for that to happen we need to exercise a high level of trust with each other.
We often see depression and anxiety as pushing feelings and emotions down. In her book Constructive Wallowing, Tina Gilbertson says that we associate wallowing with going down a hole, but if we take the ‘w’ off ‘wallowing’ and move it to ‘hole’ it becomes ‘allowing whole’, Becoming whole and bringing our whole self to work can begin with wallowing. Feelings are a natural part of who we are. Feelings are energy. The sub-title of Tina’s book is How to beat bad feelings by letting yourself have them; what better example can there be of this than that set by Madalyn Parker and Ben Congleton? Congratulations to them from all of us at Space2think.