coworker with anxiety keeps asking us to drive her home and stay there with her

A reader writes:

My question is about helping a coworker struggling with mental illness. I work at a small company of about 25-ish people in a major city.

My coworker — I’ll call her Amy — deals with severe anxiety. She has a lot of fears about doing things alone, like taking public transportation, taking an Uber, or even being home alone. Whenever he can, Amy’s partner accompanies her to and from work, but he’s got his own job and can’t always be there. Amy often tries to get other coworkers to take her home, and she’ll usually ask them to stay with her at home for a while until she feels okay to be alone. A couple of coworkers who frequently get asked have started coming up with elaborate excuses not to have to take Amy home — she’s in a bad enough place that if people say they have class or a meeting after work, she’ll ask if she can come along so she won’t have to be alone.

It’s gotten to the point where she asked one of our unpaid interns to take her home, and the intern did it, even though she lives in another part of the city. This felt like the last straw to me, as the interns will obviously feel pressured to say yes to a full-time employee. It feels very wrong to ask one of them to do something like that, even though I get that Amy is desperate.

Another coworker and I have gone to our company’s HR person (we have one person who wears the HR hat along with some others) and she seemed concerned but didn’t really have any concrete ideas for steps to take. There was also a period where Amy worked from home a few days a week on the days her partner had other obligations. It took Amy several meetings with her boss to get this approved and was an awkward process — most of the people here, including our company’s founders, have not worked anywhere besides this company out of college, so a lot of challenges that come up are a first for everyone. I’m not sure what changed since that arrangement was made, but Amy is now back in the office all five days a week and needs help getting home a lot.

I feel terrible because I know Amy is suffering, but at the same time it doesn’t feel fair for several other employees to have to spend hours after work accompanying her home and sitting with her. Is there anything I can do or any conversations I can have with higher-ups to try to ease this burden?

Ugh, this sucks for everyone. I’m sure it sucks for Amy because severe anxiety is a horrible burden, but it also sucks for the coworkers who are being asked to pick up some of that burden themselves. And Amy is crossing some boundaries here; it’s one thing to ask people for a ride home (although even that can be a problem if it’s done in a way where people regularly feel obligated to say yes) but it’s really not appropriate to ask to them to stay with her once she’s home or ask to come along to people’s after-work activities. She’s putting people in a position where they’re having to avoid her, lie to her, or feel guilty about not agreeing to requests that they shouldn’t be facing in the first place.

Since you’re not her manager, you’re limited in how much you can do — but there are some things you can do.

For starters, you can model a polite “no” to the requests when you don’t want to agree to them. There’s some group norming around this kind of thing, where if everyone is saying yes, the person who wants to say no will feel like they can’t. But if people see others politely saying “no, sorry, I can’t drive you” or “no, sorry, I can’t bring you to my evening class,” it’s likely to make them feel more comfortable saying their own no’s.

You can also make sure that people in positions of less power — like your intern and other junior employees — know that it’s okay for them to say no, and that they have language they’re comfortable using for that. Let them know that there isn’t an unofficial expectation that they’ll agree to these requests, and that there aren’t any professional consequences to saying no.

The rest of this, though, should really fall to Amy’s manager, and if her manager is aware of what’s happening, it’s problematic that she isn’t stepping in. You mentioned that you’d talked to HR, but have you talked to Amy’s direct manager? If not, that’s the next step here. (In general, this is something for management rather than HR anyway.) Ideally she should be saying something to Amy like, “Hey, I know you’re struggling with this, but it’s placing an unfair burden on your coworkers. It’s okay to ask for a ride in a rare emergency situation, but it can’t be a regular thing because it’s making coworkers feel obligated and uncomfortable in ways that aren’t fair to them.”

Beyond that, though, all you can really do is to be politely firm about saying no and help others feel comfortable saying no too.

{ 506 comments… read them below }

      1. Bend & Snap

        That’s true. I read the “several meetings with her boss” as boss knowing about the requests of coworkers, but that’s not necessarily the case.

  1. Katie the Fed

    Yeah, OP – you need to get her manager involved. I’d want to know if someone working for me was doing with this. There are some resources (like EAP) we can refer people to in cases like this. And I can also instruct an employee to stop doing this. It’s not an HR issue, it’s a management one. That’s what we’re here for.

      1. Bend & Snap

        I went to HR in my old job to ask for tips on working with someone in a way I’d never been asked to before. No complaining, just explaining that I needed some guidance because it was a new setup. I knew my manager wouldn’t give it to me so I thought HR would help.

        She went to my boss and told him I was complaining about my coworker and he needed to get involved and sort it out. So we had a meeting where I was told to “effing fix it.”

        That is the absolute last time I went to HR for anything. Here, I definitely wouldn’t go to them about something like this unless it seemed to be a serious/potentially legal issue.

        1. Stranger than fiction

          Sometimes I think HR folks are trained to always be reading between the lines, even when there is nothing between the lines. Things like this have happened to me a few times, at a few different jobs. So much so that next time (if there is one) I feel like I need to end the convo with a very emphatic “please take this at face value!”.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Seconding that it’s a management issue, not an HR issue. It’s strange that so many people default to HR for anything interpersonal; that’s not typically the place to go.

      1. Retail HR Guy

        As an HR person, I’ve got to disagree. While it is true that OP should be going to the person’s manager before HR, that manager should really be consulting with HR on this one. ADA is trickier than a lot of managers realize, and there are pitfalls that a lot of managers wouldn’t think of. It is all too easy for a well-meaning manager to behave in a way that the EEOC would consider discriminatory or retaliatory.

          1. Retail HR Guy

            Okay, I think we’re on the same page. I think I’ve just spent so much of my HR career trying to drill into managers that DISABILITY = HR ISSUE that any faint hint of a manager being advised to go it alone triggered something in me.

          2. Critter

            I think that “Human Resources” tends to throw people off; they might expect HR to deal with “humans”, or “people”. I used to work at a company where the head of (a very small 3 person) HR department was…prickly. People would often complain about her: “why can’t she be nicer? It’s HUMAN resources!”

            1. El

              At one point in my career, I worked in HR. My boss often told me I was “too nice” to people. I still haven’t figured out why being approachable and actively listening to others would be considered “too nice.” o_O

      2. NotAnotherManager!

        I wouldn’t see this as entirely interpersonal, I’d see it as someone whose health issue was interfering with their job. My director of HR would want to know about this situation both to refer Amy to the EAP and to ensure management is resetting boundaries appropriately. We’ve been told that they need a heads up and a referral when employees are stating they can’t do their job for a medical reason, which is how I would categorize anxiety.

        Management needs to step in and deal with the boundary issue because Amy’s requests are outside the scope of professional behavior (and the coworkers need to know they have support in saying “no”), but I would be expected, as a manager, to put this on my HR department’s radar, particularly given how egregious the overstep is.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I think there are different threads of this though. You as the person’s manager might talk with HR about the aspects you mentioned. But the person’s coworkers should start with you, not HR.

          1. NotAnotherManager!

            Ah, yes, I would definitely agree on that point.

            (And so would my HR director, who, when she first arrived, was called in by employees to settle a dispute between squabbling officemates over a “stolen” highlighter — apparently a non-standard, special order color nefariously pilfered by the other party. Former HR refused to allow management to actually manage, so more tenured staff tended to run to HR for everything. The new one has spent the better part of a year going, “Did you talk to your supervisor about this? No? You need to talk to them first.”)

      3. designbot

        For me whether I was comfortable or even knew how to bring this to Amy’s manager’s attention may vary widely depending on if they’re someone I’ve worked with before vs. a complete stranger to me. In some companies I’ve worked for there are situations where I have worked laterally with someone and I don’t actually even know who they report to in the organization. So I think some of us default to HR when we’re not sure of the pathways for these things or don’t feel like we have the relationships/standing with people at a certain level to make requests of them.

      4. Partly Cloudy

        I wish I could print this and post it at my desk.

        I work in HR, and I feel like a kindergarten teacher sometimes. You want to know how to sign up for benefits or change your direct deposit account? I’m all ears. You want to complain about each other as if you were in grade school? Please handle it like the adult(s) you are – at least chronologically.

    2. Jadelyn

      I could see it being an HR issue if it reaches the point of an ADA claim requiring accommodation (which it sounds like it might, given how debilitating her anxiety is – I’d say it qualifies as impairing major life functions at that point), but even then, her manager would be heavily involved in that process, especially in a small office that doesn’t have an HR specialist as such.

        1. Amanda

          It is not necessarily Amy’s burden to go to HR. If the employer is on notice of a disability, it is the employer’s obligation to initiate the interactive process dialogue. However, I agree that the OP’s obligation here is to go to her manager and let the manager handle this/reach out to HR.

          1. fposte

            For an invisible disability, “on notice” really needs to come from the employee herself. It can come indirectly via the manager, whom the employee has informed of a disability, but you really can’t have HR calling in people because they’re rumored to have a mental illness.

            Of course, a company is always free to work with employees who seem to be having difficulty whether under the ADA or not, but it’s important not to make “Hey, it sounds like you’re having trouble going home, and maybe there are ways we can help” turn into a fishing expedition.

          2. Retail HR Guy

            Minor quibble: the employer would need to be on notice not only that the employee has a disability, but that the disability is somehow interfering with the employee’s ability to perform their job or enjoy the benefits of employment that others receive.

            An employee just casually mentioning that they are passing on dessert because they are diabetic, for example, wouldn’t trigger the need to start the interactive process.

          3. NonProfitParalegal28

            My question is – did Amy explicitly tell LW and his/her coworkers that she has anxiety, or is the LW just speculating she has anxiety problems?

            If it’s the first one, I think it would be more reasonable for the OP to go to HR.

            If it’s the later, it’s rude to speculate and LW should NOT go to HR and we have more problems here. You should never assume anything about a person’s disability.

        2. Dust Bunny

          If Amy is at the point where she can’t take the bus home and spend 20 minutes by herself until her SO gets home, and seems to think this is acceptable behavior (or, at least, her anxiety is overriding any reservations she may have about it) I’m not sure I’d be confident that she’s functional enough to bring this to HR herself. That alone could be anxiety-inducing, and since anxiety is already the problem, it’s a lot easier to say, well, she’s an adult and needs to handle this herself than it is for the person in question to actually follow through on that.

          1. Elsajeni

            But even if that’s the case, it’s still not appropriate for a random coworker who is not Amy’s manager to go to HR and say “Hey, I think Amy has a disability she hasn’t told you about.” Probably the best way to handle it is for Amy’s manager to discuss the problem behavior with her in a way that gives her an opening to disclose a disability or offer some kind of explanation — “Amy, this is unacceptable. What’s going on?” All the coworkers can really do is keep telling Amy no and keep letting her manager know that the problem is continuing.

            1. Dust Bunny

              Of course it’s not appropriate, but waiting for Amy to take the initiative to bring it up herself might mean nothing ever happens.

      1. fposte

        But an ADA claim is not for other people to raise, and having people drive you home and stay with you is not a reasonable accommodation.

        1. NonProfitParalegal28

          Amy asking people to stay home with her is most likely beyond the scope of the employer. Assuming Amy and the coworker are both off duty, it’s not their issue unfortunately.

          The transportation thing is and never will be considered a reasonable accommodation, though. Your employer is not responsible for how you get to and from work, and if it causes undue hardships to the company for your accommodation, it will not be granted.

          1. NotAnotherManager!

            Even if it’s off duty, if Amy is asking people junior to her (like the intern) and they feel like, based on her position superior to them in the organization, they can’t say no to her intrusion into their free time, I do think that a manager could address it. I don’t see it as much different than a superior asking a subordinate to loan them money or some other sort of favor where the power imbalance at work puts the junior person in a position where they feel their job/professional reputation/performance review could be endangered by refusing. It’s pretty bad judgment and is different than asking a peer-coworker.

      2. Engineer Girl

        Even if it were ADA, there is an expectation that the illness is under some control (and it appears that it isn’t here). There is also an expectation of reasonable accommodation. Asking people to sacrifice hours of their time to stay with Amy is not reasonable.

        1. LadyCop

          Exactly. She’s making her disability other people’s disability…and while one can sympathize with her anxiety, she has to find other options….especially since I’m surprised this kind of issue has not yet interfered with her ability to have a job and a partner.

        2. Green

          There’s no expectation that the illness/condition be under some control (i.e., blindness is blindness). Just that (1) it is for the person impacted to raise and (2) the accommodations requested must be reasonable. You are correct that Amy’s current informal “accommodation” is inherently unreasonable.

        3. Mr. Mike

          It is a matter of whether the person with a disability can perform the essential duties of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. In this case, it sounds like the company and her have already been covering that dialogue. This particular issue doesn’t necessarily fall under ADA rules as she is asking for personal help from co-workers, who are under no obligation to assist.

        4. NonProfitParalegal28

          If you’re both clocked out, it’s generally beyond the scope of the employer.

          1. Green

            The person is asking at work–which is harmful to the work environment–and more junior people (i.e., the intern) may believe that it is an implied or expected part of working there. It is probably not a good rule to follow (legally or practically) that if you’re both off the clock, the employer has no interest in what goes on between employees.

          2. neverjaunty

            If a senior employee were pushing a junior employee to go on a date with him, and she agreed because she feared for her job, we wouldn’t say “well, but the date actually happened off the clock, so it’s not the employer’s problem”. And neither would the law.

        5. Isabel C.

          This.

          I have anxiety disorder myself, and I sympathize, but unless she or her insurance company is paying you guys two hundred bucks an hour, you are not her therapists and this is not your problem. (It is also why God made clonopin, IMO.)

          *Amy* needs to get herself on the appropriate therapy/medication combo. She needs to look into things like hiring a part-time companion for the hours in question, working out a WFH schedule, and so forth. I feel bad for her condition, but considerably less so because she seems unwilling to take these responsibilities rather than foist them off on co-workers, who aren’t even her partner or close friends.

      3. Shannon

        I’m not sure ADA would extend to non-work functions, and it sounds like they’ve been extremely accommodating in the past when her anxiety impacted work functions (ie: setting up the work from home).

        For example, a typical job doesn’t care how you get to work, they only care that you get to work for the hours required. You could drive, walk, bike, fly or swim to work for all most employers care. If Amy needs a companion on the ride in/ out, that’s on her to secure.

    3. OP

      OP here with a little more information! Thank you everyone for the advice. Looks like I need to go to her manager. The manager, who is one of the founders of the company, knows about the anxiety, but I get the sense she is not super understanding of it. I don’t think she knows the extent that Amy has been asking people to do this. I wasn’t sure if I should go to the manager originally because I didn’t want to disclose something that wasn’t mine to disclose, or hurt Amy professionally. Most people who work here are around the same age (young and mostly at our first jobs) and we’re all friendly with each other, so it felt awkward to go around Amy.

        1. AMT

          Yep. You don’t even have to say “Amy has anxiety.” You can say what happened in a concrete way: “Amy has been asking us for X, Y, and Z and that makes us uncomfortable.”

          1. ChrysantheMumsTheWord

            +1 +1 As someone that actually suffers from anxiety and therefore does not drive as a result of this, I find the fact that Amy is putting this kind of burden on her coworkers SO uncomfortable.

            Her behavior and expectations of her coworkers is just unreasonable. I find it so rude and out of place – the way I see it my problems are my problems and no one else’s responsibility. I strive instead to make sure I’m not just on-time but early because I never want my employer to view my problems as interfering with my work.

            1. (Another) B

              I have anxiety too, and I hope Amy is getting treatment. When it’s interfering in your life (let alone others’) it’s time to get help.

      1. Michelenyc

        This is not only impacting your work but it is also impacting your life outside of the office which is not OK. Anxiety sucks but Amy needs to get some professional help. Based on the information in the letter it does not sound like she is doing that.

        1. Van Wilder

          I know nothing about this area and, obviously, this wouldn’t be up to the OP, but Amy seems like a great candidate for a service dog.

      2. Katie the Fed

        So when you go to the boss, you’re not going with the purpose of getting her in trouble. Come at it from the approach that you’re concerned about Amy, but also concerned about the impact this is having.

        “Boss, I need to tell you something that you might not be aware of. Amy has been asking people to drive her home and stay with her until she feels comfortable being alone. This is happening more often, and she recently asked one of the interns. I’m concerned about Amy, but also concerned that more junior people like interns won’t know how to say no. I don’t think this is a sustainable situation – can you please talk to Amy about it and maybe direct her to some resources that would help?”

        1. DeskBird

          Yes. This. Plus you should definitely mention that she is not accepting soft no’s. If people are coming up with excuses so they don’t have to give a direct ‘no’ and she’s still pushing to come to their meeting or class – then she is pushing past even more boundaries and the manager would probably want to hear that.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Yes — that part is really relevant. I might modify Katie the Fed’s script to include that and also to be really clear that you’re asking for the behavior to stop, not just for Amy to get help:

            “I need to tell you something that you might not be aware of. Amy has been asking people to drive her home and stay with her until she feels comfortable being alone. It’s gotten to the point that people are coming up with elaborate excuses not to have to take her home — and if people say they have class or a meeting after work, she’ll ask if she can come along so she won’t have to be alone. This is happening more often, and she recently asked one of the interns. I’m concerned about Amy, but also concerned about how pressured it’s making people feel, and that more junior people like interns don’t feel comfortable saying no. Can you please talk to Amy about it? Maybe there are resources you can direct her to that will help, but either way we really need her to stop pressuring people on staff to do this.”

        2. OP

          Thank you everyone! One thing I’m wondering about moving forward with this is talking to Amy after going to her manager. Because we’re such a small company, once Amy’s manager talks to her, Amy might say something to one of us about it. I don’t know if she’d be mad or upset at us, but do you all have any suggestions for what to say to her if she does confront one of us about going to her boss?

          1. DeskBird

            I don’t know how helpful this is – but if someone came to me this way I would play dumb. “What? Someone went to manager? Wow.” brief pause “Maybe someone was uncomfortable?” I might try to lead the conversation into having her come up with ideas why someone might feel the need to go to her manager – but that would depend on how she was reacting.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              I might not do the “wow” because that risks signaling “how inappropriate of them.”

              I might say to be kindly honest — something like, “I think sometimes in situations like this someone can feel uncomfortably obligated but it can be hard to say that to someone directly, especially when you like them personally.”

              1. DeskBird

                You are right – Wow is too surprised and indicates it was wrong. Maybe a totally neutral ‘huh’ as though someone had told you it would be cloudy this afternoon.

          2. AdAgencyChick

            I would do the Miss Manners thing where you say “It’s just not possible for us to do that any more” and repeat as often as necessary, without giving a reason. (She has abundantly demonstrated that giving her a reason just encourages her to try and get around that reason.)

          3. OhNo

            I think that’s going to depend on whether or not you’re comfortable admitting that it was you. In an ideal world, you would be able to say, “Actually, I went to your boss about that because it was making me uncomfortable and really impacting my work. I didn’t know how to address it with you directly, and I thought your boss might be in a better position to do that.”

            But that rarely happens, so some kind of polite surprise like DeskBird suggested might be better. Something simple like, “I wonder if someone was uncomfortable with it,” or “I’m sure they were just trying to help” is probably the easiest way to go.

          4. Amy G. Golly

            I might say something like, “I’m sure everyone has nothing but concern for you, but it’s not always possible for one of us to take you home. It’s worrying to think about what you’ll do if no one is available. Going to Jane with the problem might be a good way to brainstorm other solutions.”

            Good luck, OP!

          5. Dynamic Beige

            “Amy… I’m sorry that you’re upset about this but you must admit that if someone went to your boss about it, they must feel that the requests you make are unreasonable/excessive/too frequent.”

            “Amy… I’m sorry that you’re upset about this but I have got to ask you a question: if there was someone here who was constantly asking you for money because they forgot to bring their lunch, would that bother you? Why? So you don’t think that you should be required to pay for someone’s food? Then why do you think it’s reasonable to expect people around here should drive you home and keep you company all the time? You’ve been very honest about the challenges you face with your anxiety, and everyone is sensitive to the fact that you have this struggle. However, it is your responsibility to manage your condition appropriately without relying on everyone around here excessively or to the point that they are feeling that you’re overly reliant on them.”

            And if she can’t be alone, can’t she go to a coffee shop or a library or a food court or her boyfriend’s work or the grocery store? Granted, I don’t have anxiety (or at least not that kind) so I do not fully understand that but it seems to me that she’s thinking way too binary about this in a work/home way. But then again, I hate asking for help and rarely receive it when I do so I can’t imagine being accommodated in this way.

          6. neverjaunty

            If she confronts one of you, then you recognize that SHE is being inappropriate, for starters. Bland non-answers are your friend here.

      3. Student

        You have an obligation to protect both your own ability to work, and the unpaid interns that cannot reasonably be expected to deal with this.

      4. INTP

        When you go to the manager, specify that she’s asking in a high-pressure way that no one seems to feel comfortable saying “no” to, or she’s annoying people until they either say yes or construct an elaborate excuse, or whatever she’s doing to get people to feel they have to agree to this. I think it would be easy to dismiss this as people just needing to learn to say “no” without the full scope of the issues. I’m sure you know this, just pointing it out because in the moment it can be counter-intuitive to really describe the full scope of the problem, and tempting to try to downplay the manipulative aspect and describe Amy in a more positive light.

        It’s definitely not out of line for you to report, because it’s impacting your work environment. Anxiety so bad that social norms fly out the window is also probably impacting her work performance, which the boss should know about. (To be clear, I don’t think you should say anything about her work performance that you haven’t observed yourself. I’m just pointing out that it’s a work-relevant problem that her manager needs to be aware of.)

  2. fposte

    It’s getting-other-people-to-manage-your-anxiety day! Poor Amy, but she needs to stop. (And I suspect her therapist would be opposed to this as a coping technique anyway.)

    1. Katie the Fed

      Yeah, this is a hard situation for her. I hope she and her therapist can work on some solutions. Or she can get a german shepherd.

      1. Jadelyn

        A service dog might be really helpful in this situation – German Shepherd or otherwise. Especially one that’s trained to assist people with mental health issues, I know they’re a thing.

        1. fposte

          Though a lot of those are Emotional Support Animals, which don’t have legal protection in the workplace.

          1. Tammy

            For the benefit of others who aren’t aware of the distinction, because I just had to learn about this: An Emotional Support Animal is an animal (generally a dog, though I don’t think the law limits it to dogs) who provides emotional support to a person with a mental or physical disability. An ESA helps the disabled person simply by their presence, as opposed to a Service Animal which has to be specifically trained to perform specific tasks for the disabled person. ESAs do not have the same protections under the ADA as Service Animals, which is why it’s an issue.

            I’m seeing a lot of signs in my local area in public places saying “Emotional Support Animals may not be brought into this establishment” lately, but I’m not sure what’s changed to start that trend.

            1. Turanga Leela

              A lot of people were abusing the situation by getting their pets designated as ESAs and then bringing them everywhere. It’s easy to get a doctor’s note saying your pet is an ESA, and since ESA status doesn’t require any special training, some of the pets weren’t well-behaved. I know people who didn’t have any real disability and just wanted to be able to take their cats around with them. It’s sad, because some people really do require emotional support from animals that haven’t been trained as service animals.

                1. Becca

                  This article!!! My mother-in-law read this aloud when it was in the magazine, we were all howling with laughter.

                2. Trig

                  Amazing.

                  I think my favourite bit was this:

                  “Alpaca aficionados call this type of vocalization humming, and say that it can communicate curiosity, concern, boredom, fear, or contentment but is usually a sign of distress.”

                  So, it can communicate pretty much any emotion. Perfect.

                3. Dynamic Beige

                  Lunch was ruined because Ivana Trump sat next to us with her dog which she even let climb to the table.

                  I saw this at a not-fantastic restaurant in Monte Carlo that did not involve anyone famous. I was shocked and appalled when this woman in the requisite full length fur coat (seriously, every little old lady there had a fur, it was insane) let her purse dog up on the table and it… ate from her plate. As she was eating. As we were all eating. No. Just, no. I don’t care how rich you are, no.

              1. Lemon Zinger

                Yep. I had a classmate in college who brought her kitten to class several times, since he was apparently her ESA. He was also very disruptive. It’s so inappropriate when people abuse something like this.

                1. YaH

                  There are no federal laws requiring that ESA’s be allowed anywhere other than in housing. That’s what was frustrating about the New Yorker article, although I don’t know if NY state has ESA laws- not a single one of those locations was required to admit the writer and animal.

                2. Dynamic Beige

                  I had classmates in college who brought their pet rats with them to school. They let them live/run around under their clothes, which only caused a problem when one would pop out of a collar and freak someone out. But they did not claim them as ESAs.

              2. INTP

                Same experience here. Though frankly, I don’t really support animals without service animal training getting the carte blanche to go anywhere that service animals have, no matter what the owner’s ailment, because that training keeps them from being a public danger or nuisance. I know they don’t need the full range of training that a seeing eye dog or physical disability assistance dog gets, but for the sake of the public, they should undergo the same training that makes service dogs so incredibly well-behaved (to my knowledge I’ve never seen one misbehave in any manner).

                1. KellyK

                  There’s not any set standard for training of service dogs, and there really shouldn’t be, because they have such different purposes. For example, people who use a service dog for mobility will often deliberately *not* teach the dog to sit, because that can throw them off balance. There’s really no good way to enforce a training standard because there aren’t necessarily organizations that provide formal training for every possible thing you could need a service dog for, and if someone *can* train their pet to fill the service dog role, there’s no reason they should have to pay thousands of dollars for a dog trained by someone else.

                  But there is a standard for behavior in public accommodation. If a dog is misbehaving, the owner can be required to remove the dog. Emotional support animals are actually subject to *stricter* requirements, because restaurants and grocery stores don’t have to allow them at all.

                  Honestly, I think the real problem is that business owners either don’t know that they have a right to eject a misbehaving dog, or they’re worried about conflict or being accused of discrimination.

              3. NotAnotherManager!

                I have three cats, approximately none of which I would want to take out in public. I think it would be very distressing to them, and that would manifest itself in the loss of someone’s skin. Probably mine.

            2. blackcat

              I know in some areas, a lot of people have gotten their animals certified as “emotional support animals” (by certified, I mean letter from the internet), as a way of circumventing normal rules about where animals are allowed, such as indoor restaurants. It sucks for people who need their animals, but it’s a result of people abusing the system.

              That said, Amy could look into a *service* dog. A service animal is WAY more expensive, but insurance could potentially help given the severity of her problems.

              1. fposte

                Emotional support animals don’t have any legal protections that allow them into indoor restaurants, though. I think there’s some confusion here between an actual legal category of animal and a concept people are making up along with invented privileges. Somebody posted an infographic a couple of weeks ago on these categories, but unfortunately I thought it wasn’t a very clearly designed one–maybe there’s something better.

                1. Turanga Leela

                  ESAs don’t have the legal right to go into restaurants, but people don’t know that—as you say, there’s a lot of confusion between service animals and emotional support animals. So some (not all) people with ESAs take their pets into restaurants, grocery stores, etc. and when they’re told they have to leave, they say, “He’s an emotional support animal; I’m legally allowed to have him with me,” and most of the time people back down.

                  I’m agreeing with you, just pointing out that people use the ESA label to circumvent the rules even when that shouldn’t really work.

                2. fposte

                  @Turanga–yes, I think we’re successfully making categories of animal increasingly unclear :-).

                3. INTP

                  Businesses aren’t required to support ESAs, but it’s still a pressure technique that people use. Many people aren’t aware of how widely abused the ESA designation is, or that the animals don’t have to be well-behaved or even needed for the owner to function normally. Being in the news as having an official policy to not allow support animals would not be a good thing for most companies. Many employers are also afraid to not allow employees to bring in their ESAs.

              2. Observer

                For the purposes of her job, though, I doubt that would be an issue. Her workplace seems willing enough to support her, and they know about the anxiety issue already. So, if she came in and said that her therapist advised getting and ESA and bringing it to work with her, I would think the office would accommodate it. And although it doesn’t have the same status as a service animal, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need to be considered as a reasonable accommodation.

                1. fposte

                  That’s an interesting question–you could be right, but I don’t think it’s an assumption. It might need actual case law to be sure, and I doubt there is any yet. (If I’m wrong, somebody post!)

                2. Observer

                  @fposte From the legal point of view, I’m sure you are right. From the practical point of view, though, there is nothing to keep the employer from being flexible about this, so I would think that in this case, it would not be an issue.

            3. fposte

              I know of cats who are ESAs, so it definitely doesn’t get restricted to dogs. However, you must have a doctor’s prescription for an ESA and can be asked to show it, whereas a service dog doesn’t need any proof (and you can’t ask). Interestingly, the Fair Housing Act does have protections for ESAs (barring some excluded situations), so landlords can’t refuse to rent to people with them.

              I think ESAs have hit their tipping point recently in popularity and have taken off–I didn’t even know the term last year and now I’m hearing about people who have them all the time.

              1. Salted French Fry

                There was a news article recently where someone brought an emotional support turkey on a plane. Like a legit fully grown turkey. Naturally it was a disaster.

                1. Liana

                  Oh my goodness. I’m torn between wanting to laugh at the absurdity of the situation and feeling sorry for the other passengers who presumably DID NOT want to deal with a live turkey on the plane.

                2. Rebecca in Dallas

                  My brother-in-law works for an airline and once sent us a picture of someone’s emotional support pony who had been allowed to get on the plane. And it immediately took a dump.

                3. A Non

                  LMAO at bearing’s comment!

                  @Rebecca – People occasionally train miniature horses as seeing eye ponies. The primary advantage is that they have more than twice the lifespan of a dog. But they’re just as well potty trained as the dogs, too.

              2. OhNo

                Just for clarification: Although you can’t ask for proof that an animal is a service animal, you are allowed to ask questions about it to verify that it is one. If I recall, you can ask “Is this a service animal?” and “Is it trained to perform an assistive task?”, but you’re not allowed to ask what the task is or demand that it perform on command.

                Service animals seem to occupy a very strange and undefined legal space, honestly. Since they’re not certified, and you’re not allowed to ask for proof, it’s really easy to lie about a pet being a service animal. It’s an odd loophole.

                1. fposte

                  From ada.gov: “Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform.”

                2. Feline

                  My sister supervised the admissions area to a well-known theme park, and she had to deal with the abuse of the service animal/emotional support animal thing all the time. Because of the lack of documentation they were allowed to ask for, the company policy was only permitting assistance animals which were recognized by ADA (dogs and miniature horses). As far as I know, no one ever showed up wanting to bring in their miniature horse, but they turned away what people claimed were assistance monkeys, one belonging to the same person on more than one occasion.

                3. A Non

                  If I understand it correctly, the loophole exists because having a dog professionally raised and trained can cost north of $30,000. They don’t want to close the door on people training their own dogs. (Which many do, especially when their disability has some unique requirements.) The ability to kick out a service animal that is misbehaving is supposed to protect against poorly trained animals and outright fakes, but it doesn’t seem to be very well known.

            4. JaneB

              I’ve heard complaints that people are claiming almost any pet as an ESA, taking them everywhere, and the pets are not well trained for situations they find themselves in – for example a colleague in a North American university had a student bring a small lap-dog into class, claiming it was an ESA, and it then peed in her bag, cried, chewed up some handouts and distracted everyone. There’ve also been cases where people tried to bring ‘ESA’ cats into public places, which is very distressing for most cats, especially if they encounter dogs or other cats, with the expected consequences which upset other patrons – someone who’s phobic or allergic might be moderately understanding about a well-trained service animal being in a normally animal free space, but a poorly trained and disruptive animal being described as an ESA is more problematic (I understand from my colleague that in many cases these animals aren’t actually trained and registered, which makes sense since there’s a whole spectrum of meaning to the phrase).

              If I have a classroom, or a cafe, it would only take one incident of misplaced pee or poop, or destructive behaviour towards persons or property, or prolonged noise disruption, for me to begin to enforce a ‘registered animals only, I reserve the right to ban’ kind of approach!

              1. Green

                A lot of people get their pets registered as ESA because they don’t want them to have to fly in cargo, where dogs regularly die or are “lost.”

            5. Lily in NYC

              Oh, I didn’t know this, thanks. I wonder if those signs are there because so many people have fake support animals and are completely abusing the original purpose.

            6. NotAnotherManager!

              ESAs are also not trained to the way service animals are, and, until there are qualifications and some sort of guarantee that an animal is trained to be in public as a support animal, I’m fine with their not having the same protections. I ride public transit daily, and seeing service animals or service animals in training is not at all unusual. Sometimes, I don’t even notice them because they are under a seat or sitting quietly. I also live in a walkable town and see a lot of pet owners who think that they should be able to take their pet into the grocery store, even though it is has clearly not been trained for it. As a parent of two children who are terrified of dogs, I don’t need everyone to claim their pet is an ESA and that they are “super friendly!!!” when they jump on my screaming 7-year-old.

              It is a shame for people who could benefit from a support animal, but there also needs to be a more rigorous training and certification training around it before there should be any legal protection for these animals or subjecting people (in public or a workplace) who may be allergic to, afraid of, or simply not like animals to them. Having a non-service animal in my office would be a complete no-go, and I am grateful for that.

              1. Elizabeth West

                I agree–I wish we could have certifications and badges for them, along with an educational outreach, so 1) there would be no ambiguity about having the animal with you, and 2) people would know that it’s a service animal and leave it alone while it’s trying to do its job. (I know they don’t always do the latter even when it’s obvious, but PSAs along with ID on the animal might help.)

            7. INTP

              Some jurisdictions DO limit the types of animals that can be designated as service animals (which is different from an emotional support animal, but some support animals can be considered service animals). For example, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin limited it to dogs and miniature horses after someone was outraged at not being allowed to bring her emotional support kangaroo into McDonald’s.

              1. fposte

                Yeah, the ADA doesn’t cover anything but dogs and miniature horses, so a city or state is free to ban other animals as service animals without violating federal law. (Though not as ESAs, but they don’t have to let ESAs into public spaces or businesses.)

            8. Simonthegrey

              Yes. My cat is my ESA. I got the letter so that he could live at my apartment with me (it is no pets allowed) but he had been instrumental in helping me cope with depression prior to that. However, I do not see that as permission to take him to work, or to the mall, or anywhere else. Honestly that would stress him out, which would stress me out, which would stress him out…that’s a fun spiral. The law does not limit it to dogs (at least not in my state) and unfortunately, it is the kind of thing that can be abused really easily.

          2. DeskBird

            Even if she couldn’t bring it out with her – It might at least help with the asking people to hang around her house once they got there. A dog of any kind could help her be more comfortable home alone.

          3. designbot

            Even having an animal at home for support can sometimes do a lot. I went through a bit of what Amy’s going through–though for me it was post-traumatic reaction that did fade away after a couple of months, thankfully–and having my cat with me at home actually really helped a lot. She was a great distraction from the hypothetical boogeymen lurking just on the other side of the window (in my head), and she seemed to know I needed extra love and would snuggle up to me til I could go to sleep. Having an animal to greet her and keep her company at home could alleviate the need to have people stay with her maybe?

          4. Retail HR Guy

            They can, actually. The ESA vs. Service Animal distinction is mainly for public accommodation of the disabled under the ADA (i.e. making your business accessible), and not as relevant for the parts of the ADA that cover the employee/employer relationship.

            As a reasonable accommodation for an employee, ESA’s could have legal protections if the employee needed one and it wouldn’t be an undue hardship on the employer. Conversely, true service animals might be a undue hardship and not a reasonable accommodation for certain positions at certain employers (e.g. an astronaut doesn’t get to bring a service animal to the space station even if Fido is 100% legit). It all has to undergo the same analysis and same interactive process.

          5. Anonymousaurus Rex

            I have a coworker with an anxiety disorder who has a service dog, not an emotional support animal. She (the dog) is trained to assist when coworker is having an anxiety attack. I think this could be a good option for Amy (depending on her situation) and would fall under reasonable accommodation covered by the ADA.

            1. fposte

              It could, anyway–there’s no advance guarantee of anything being reasonable accommodation, as Retail HR Guy points out.

              However, there are obstacles to getting a service dog–they’re often not cheap (up to $20k at programs that don’t donor subsidize), and it can take a while; it takes a while to get a place if you’re going with an organization, and if you’re training independently, it takes about 2 years to train.

        2. KR

          Amy might need a trained service dog, but an unemployed dog might do the trick too. My dog is great for my anxiety mostly because I have someone to focus other than anxiety.

              1. Koko

                There was actually a recent Freakonomics podcast about Universal Basic Income where they talked about how automation is increasingly eliminating the jobs that we need humans to do, and jobs for many people are increasingly becoming something you do to prove you deserve income rather than something that is actually needed in the world.

                At one point they entertained the dystopian question, “When robots can do everything for us, will they still want us around?” They made the analogy that we once used dogs as working animals – some bred for hunting, some for ratting, some for herding, some for guarding, etc. But nowadays most dogs are “unemployed” – and luckily we decided we still want them around for companionship.

                So perhaps we can look forward to being future robots’ pets!

        1. Katie the Fed

          Yeah, and for coming home to a house alone – I would trust a GSD with my life. I don’t love when my husband is away, but I like that I have a big scary-looking pit mix (who would roll over for a belly rub while I was being stabbed, but an intruder doesn’t need to know that). I sleep better knowing the dog is there.

          1. Kay

            + a million to this. I have I suppose a mild generalized anxiety about being home at night without my husband, but having a dog is huge. She’s noisy and enthusiastic when there are people at the door, in a friendly sort of way, but which seems awfully intimidating. My brother has a GSD that looks terrifying and is wonderfully protective of his people.

          2. Anonathon

            Heh. Sounds like our dog. She is lazy as crap, but was also a hunting dog (probably not a very good one …) in her pre-rescue life and she likes to plant herself in front of the door. Works for me!

          3. Rebecca in Dallas

            Yes, my GSD-pit bull mix looks like she’d tear you apart and will bark her fool head off at you while you’re at the door, but as soon as you’re inside the worst she’d do is lick you. She’s more of a deterrent than anything else!

        2. Lily in NYC

          Random story – my sister was mauled by a German Shepherd (bad owners) when she was 4 – she had to get 300 stitches. He had his jaws clamped around her thigh and was shaking her like a toy. People think she was attacked by a shark when they see the scars. You’d think she’d be terrified of them, but she LOVES German Shepherds. I have no point, just felt like sharing.

          1. Janice in Accounting

            Oh dear heavens. I was also attacked by a German Shepherd as a child, no stitches but still have a scar. Unlike your sister I am still quite nervous around big dogs, but compared to her maybe I’m just a wimp!

          2. Allstonian

            I was also bitten by a German Shepherd when I was a child, not nearly as bad as your sister, and I adore them. I don’t blame the dog at all for the bite, it was just a combination of me startling the dog and the dog being on a way too long line.

      2. Caroline

        I agree, it sounds awful to live in Amy’s skin. I know it’s not Amy who’s writing in, and I like Alison’s work advice. But for Amy, I’d hope a combination of therapy, medication, and maybe an assistance dog could help balance her out in the long term. Short term, though, maybe she could hire an aide? Someone who could pick her up from work every day and stay with her. Someone more than a driver and less than a nurse.

        1. Serafina

          I agree with this. I also feel deeply for Amy – anxiety when triggered can feel like a combination of a vise around your chest and your skin crawling off your body at the best of times. However, it isn’t her coworkers’ responsibility to mitigate these symptoms for her (or whatever form her symptoms may take) only to accommodate reasonably whatever AMY puts in place to mitigate it.

          An aide (more than a driver, less than a nurse) seems like a great idea and would probably not be too cost-prohibitive.

    2. Ruth

      This is my thought. Amy needs a better therapist or a therapist at all and needs to work out coping solutions. Anxiety is awful. I only recently realized that most people don’t feel like they’re going to die ALL THE TIME (sounds silly but there it is). But this is not going to be an adequate long-term coping solution. I don’t know what coworkers can do other than encouraging her to work with a therapist on better strategies. Ugh. I want to sit with her so she won’t be as anxious and to talk with her about how it can get …maybe not better, but less awful.

      1. Anon4This1

        I only recently realized that most people don’t feel like they’re going to die ALL THE TIME (sounds silly but there it is).
        I know what you mean. I found out a couple years ago that I have a raging case of generalized anxiety disorder, which I’d never considered as the reason that I have had an internal worst-case-scenario-consequence generator my whole life. I thought everyone worried constantly that their loved ones would die in bizarre, unlikely manners. Apparently (a) this is not normal brain behavior and (b) you don’t have to have panic attacks to have crippling anxiety. I cope by obsessively contingency planning for everything, but that’s treating the symptoms, not the problem.

      1. OP

        OP here – last I heard, Amy recently started therapy (after a long time of this going on without any help), so hopefully that is a step forward.

        1. SystemsLady

          I hope her manager is accommodating her getting to those appointments, particularly in the early stage, and her SO is getting help as well! Good to hear regardless, though.

          (Wouldn’t be surprised to hear she kept getting told 1-2 months for an initial consult and that contributed, either. I know my state is awfully understaffed with the exception of one 1-hour radius, maybe one 15-20 minute radius on top of that :(. That excludes quite a lot of decently sized cities, never mind rural areas!)

        2. Anon (the other one)

          I had a somewhat similar situation once. My co-worker was a recovering alcoholic. She had been an award winning journalist, and then went into a downward spiral. She began asking us for rides home because she no longer had a driving license. I did it several times…until the day she asked me to stop at the liquor store on the way home. Turns out she was asking other employees for the same when they gave her a ride home. Our manager basically said, “tell her no.” We all agreed to decline giving her rides. She started taking a taxi every day and never asked for rides again. Can’t you and your co-workers adopt a similar strategy?

        3. neverjaunty

          While that is very heartening, please don’t let that be a reason to shy away from talking to Amy’s manager or dealing with this problem.

    3. Adam

      That was my thought: is she seeking any sort of treatment for this? I know her mental health issues are her own private business, but when her techniques for managing it are imposing this much on her co-workers it does beg the question.

      I’ve struggled with severe anxiety and OCD in the past so I know how debilitating it can be and that recovery/managing it is a LONG arduous process. I have no idea what the best course of action to take here is, but I feel like if I were her manager I’d have to bring up the subject of seeking professional help as her current coping strategies aren’t really working for everyone else.

  3. Leatherwings

    Eek. Amy is using really bad coping techniques to manage her anxiety. Her manager absolutely needs to step in and let her know that these kinds of requests can’t keep happening.

    1. Seal

      Exactly. So long as her coping technique works for her, she has no reason to pursue other options to manage her anxiety. No one is doing her any favors by enabling her.

  4. Angela

    I feel for Amy and the OP. I have had severe, debilitating anxiety that basically led me to quit my job and move in with my mother while I found the best way to treat it (therapy+meds+some lifestyle changes). Honestly, it sounds like Amy’s anxiety is disrupting her life enough that she needs to figure out a different way to cope or (new) treatment.

    But that’s not really advice for the OP or Amy’s coworkers. But maybe (hopefully) by taking Alison’s advice and modeling healthy boundaries, Amy will be forced to face that this is not a workable solution to what must be a really painful problem.

    1. the_

      I agree. At it’s core, this is a management problem, and management needs to step up and enforce appropriate boundaries. Hopefully the company has access to an EAP and can refer Amy to that.

      However badly Amy is violating boundaries and behaving inappropriately, I do feel very badly for her- she has to be feeling really awful to be asking this of her partner/co-workers. I also feel badly for her partner, who is probably bearing a heavy burden in trying to help Amy manage her anxiety. I hope someone in her life is able to encourage her to seek help because whatever she’s doing now is obviously not enough.

    2. The IT Manager

      Honestly, I don’t feel that bad for Amy because, damn, she is so far over the appropriate line and is pressuring people of low power into uncomfortable situations. It’s so wierd that she has social anxiety about some things but not about totally inappropriately imposing herself on her colleagues.

      1. Elizabeth West

        Sometimes, especially when you’re dealing with panic, you know you’re doing something inappropriate but you don’t know how to stop yourself. Hopefully Amy’s therapist can help her do that.

      2. INTP

        Anxiety doesn’t just make you feel emotionally anxious though, it actually affects your cognition and reasoning – this was scary for me when I experienced it, because people don’t talk about that aspect much. People go into a survival mode, just trying to get through it and worry about everything else later. Their brains are essentially functioning in the way that your brain functions to help you survive when staring down a sabre-toothed tiger, escaping a wrecked car, having a heart attack in public, etc. Self-consciousness about social norms, complex analytical abilities, and the like all dissolve in favor of the “GET OUT OF THIS SITUATION BY WHATEVER MEANS NECESSARY RIGHT NOW” impulse. In my case I could still behave appropriately, but my ability to prioritize and evaluate the urgency and severity of things just didn’t work – even after I figured out what was going on I couldn’t just force my brain to work properly.

        We also don’t know that she has social anxiety, just that she has anxiety. It’s not that uncommon for people with anxiety to be terrified of being left alone because other people serve as a distraction against their own anxious thoughts. Plus, anxiety disorders, OCD, and mental illness in general just don’t follow logical patterns. You can find a logical inconsistency of some sort in any mentally ill person’s behavior, that doesn’t mean they are any less sick or in control of the behavior.

        1. Hrovitnir

          A+ response.

          Amy’s behaviour is inappropriate and untenable even with friends, never mind coworkers. But that doesn’t justify sneering at having debilitating anxiety.

          (I wish we had another word – people just don’t seem to be able to get past the fact that it means both an emotion everyone experiences *and* a condition where your body engages fight-or-flight over minor to non-existent issues. Ditto for chronic/major depression.)

          1. neverjaunty

            It’s not sneering at debilitating anxiety to note that people have can have real, crippling mental or emotional problems and still be selfish and thoughtless in how they deal with those problems. It’s pretty ableist to assume that people with emotional or mental disorders don’t have anything else to their personalities.

            1. Ccccccc...

              But naming her behaviour “selfish” or “thoughtless” assumes that Amy is rationally responding to the situation or “dealing with [her] problems” – yet her behaviour suggests a reaction fuelled overwhelmingly by crippling anxiety. INTP, above, perfectly explains why.

              To eschew labels like “selfish” isn’t ableist, it’s putting things in context. Furthermore, I’m not sure how terms like “selfish” add anything to this issue.

            2. Julia

              I would cut people who have any kind of illness more slack than healthy people (out of my own experiences with hormone-induced mental health troubles which were hell), but at some point, you just cannot excuse their behaviour anymore no matter what the cause may be.

      3. Anon4This2

        Having anxiety out of proportion to the situation is pretty much the definition of an anxiety disorder. Of course it’s not consistent or reasonable – if it were, it wouldn’t be a problem.

      4. BTW

        If you’ve never experienced it then you will never understand and that makes all the difference in this scenario. Boundaries or not, anxiety is a “fight or flight” response. Her fear of the anxiety itself causes her to do things she normally wouldn’t. It’s extremely irrational. She has a mental disorder and while I too think what she is doing is extremely inappropriate and that she needs help, I *get* her and where she is coming from because I suffer too. We didn’t ask for this.

        1. Anon4This2

          Recursive anxiety is so ridiculous and so utterly predictable at the same time. The feeling of being anxious – of feeling like you’re in life-threatening danger for hours at a time, on a regular basis – is so horrible that anyone would develop an aversion to it, even if they weren’t already prone to anxiety. But at the same time, WTF brain, could you just chill out for a moment? Nope, apparently that’s too much to ask for…

  5. Hibiscus

    Oh hell no.
    Anxiety is managable. Anxiety is treatable. This is irrational behavior that doesn’t do anything to help the anxiety; it just feeds it.

    1. Leatherwings

      It actually sounds like Amy’s anxiety isn’t manageable for her right now. That certainly doesn’t make it right to make requests like these of coworkers, but be careful of suggesting that this is an easy fix.

      I have severe anxiety that went untreated for various legitimate reasons for years. I had panic attacks almost every morning, and it made me tired at work all the time. It’s impossible to know Amy’s situation. She definitely needs a different plan, but it’s probably not going to be all that easy for her and I think it’s important to keep that in mind.

      1. Jadelyn

        +100 Anxiety may be manageable in most cases, but there are always outliers – people who don’t respond well to meds, can’t access therapy that helps them (I will never forget my ex-girlfriend, who was depressed in grad school and went to the mental health center at her campus, only to have a therapist suggest that her bisexuality might be causing the problem), etc. Of course, we don’t know what Amy has or hasn’t tried in this case, so it’s hard to say if hers is manageable or treatable.

        1. Folklorist

          OMG, why are campus doctors the worst?! I went to my campus doctor when I was in grad school, and he asked me about the dosage of a medicine that I hadn’t been on for 6+ years. Not only was I guessing at the medicine I used, I had no idea what the dosage was (and very clearly told him that I was guessing, even guessed several different numbers).

          When I told him my guesses, he said, “Well, that low of a dose would be at placebo level. Are you sure that this just isn’t your personality?” (Me describing crushing sadness, inability to get happy ever, angry at people all the time for irrational reasons–yeah, that’s just my personality. He basically just said, “are you sure that you aren’t just a miserable bitch?” Thanks.)

          The mental health clinic was just as bad. :-(

          1. Folklorist

            Forgot to mention, I went to see him for depression–we were discussing depression medication.

          2. Kai

            Oh my god, that’s AWFUL.

            This is not as bad, but I once went to a campus doc about a weird, inflamed mole on my face. He basically said it was my fault for being vain and doing things like using face cream and plucking errant hairs. You know, like people do. It was humiliating.

            1. BusSys

              Warning: gross TMI

              I had a severe UTI in college that had spread to my kidneys. When I explained to the campus doc that one of my symptoms, besides stabbing abdominal pain and feeling the need to pee all the time, was bloody urine, he asked if I was sure that I wasn’t just having my period.

            2. Ife

              My campus doctor waved my flip flops at me while she was scolding me for wearing them. I had a giant blister on the back of my ankle, and it was painful to wear socks or any normal shoes, which I explained to her… And which set off her lecture.

          3. motherofdragons

            THE WORST. In college I saw a doctor on campus about how best to switch birth control methods to prevent pregnancy, because the pills I was taking were causing severe depression. My regular OB, who was out, had already written me the new prescription. That was literally my only question – how do I switch? The doc didn’t answer that question, instead he suggested that I was just depressed because I was stressed at school, and I needed to see a counselor. I left fuming, called my OB when she got back to the office, and she quickly told me how to switch. I switched, and the depression disappeared. Imagine that! Irritates me to this day.

            1. Lore

              Totally off topic, but I had no idea that depression was a side effect of BCP until I switched brands for other reasons and it was like instant anti-depressants. (I didn’t even really realize how depressed I was–I had a lot of other complicated stuff going on and thought I was just having a hard time getting through an objectively difficult moment…until I suddenly wasn’t anymore. Miraculous.)

            2. Ad Astra

              It’s so frustrating that people try so hard to resist the idea of biological causes of depression. No, this is not just my personality, and no, it’s not caused by the circumstances of my life. It’s something wrong in my brain, and your job as a doctor is to help me figure out how to fix it. So many cases of depression can be resolved by switching birth control, adding an antidepressant, or addressing some other body-related thing; instead, we spend months or even years suffering because people tacitly assume that it’s our own fault we’re depressed.

              1. Chinook

                “It’s so frustrating that people try so hard to resist the idea of biological causes of depression. ”

                I agree 100%. Mine is probably caused by a major brain injury when I was 6 and not one doctor ever recommended I see either a neurologist or psychiatrist until last month. It took over 25 years randomly trying new drugs and dosages whenever my body adjusted to the latest one I was using. Now, I admit that this is partially thanks to new knowledge and awareness about TBIs (thank you Sidney Crosby) and partially due to the lack of psychiatrists in rural parts of Canada (where you literally need to cause bodily harm to get on a waiting list), but it is extremely frustrating to have everyone just assume I am simply an overemotional person.

              2. Security SemiPro

                So much this – it turns out a from birth joint disorder that causes chronic pain makes a med resistant depressive state. (Resistant to anti depressants. Not resistant to pain meds. Pretty responsive to pain meds, thank goodness.)

                I’m not a miserable person in my very soul, but decades of crushing pain are hard on the psyche. Treat the chronic pain, instant sunny disposition. Bad pain days -> suicidal ideation. It seems so freaking simple in hindsight, but took over a decade to diagnose.

              3. Cookie

                By the same token, it’s also really difficult to deal with a traumatic situation and have a doctor try to get rid of you by offering you pills when the cause of your situation probably isn’t biologically driven but is driven by circumstances and a concrete plan to extricate yourself from those circumstances would’ve been so much more beneficial than being dismissed with a prescription and no thought to the nuances of your situation. In my own experience, I found that doctors were too quick to write me off without engaging because it’s easier to deliver a prescription than really address the situation.

                1. Dynamic Beige

                  But on the flip side of that, sometimes you need medication to help you plan or act concretely in order to make your situation better. YMMV.

                  I spent years trying to convince someone that how I was physically feeling wasn’t normal, only to have all kinds of doctors dismiss me. Turned out it was an infection that could have been worked on earlier if someone had been willing to look closer or pay attention. Now I’ve spent years trying to recover from all of that.

                2. Adlib

                  Yep, they do this all the time. My husband was having excrutiating pain around his entire head and neck and could barely function. He went to his regular doctor, an ENT, had a CAT scan. One of them gave him giant antibiotics to take for some unknown reason. (This is why we have super antibiotic resistant bacteria.) Turns out it was TMJ that the dentist found! (Which also contributed to his anxiety a fair bit so it was a pretty bad spiral.)

                  Fortunately, after about 16 months or so, his teeth are straight, his bite is getting better aligned, and he feels better with less anxiety. Doctors drive me crazy.

              4. Simonthegrey

                Or in my case, going back on my ADHD meds. Who knew going off them could trigger both depression AND debilitating anxiety?

              5. Julia

                It took me almost three years to finally get a doctor who took a thourough look at my thyroid and prescribed me meds, but I’m finally feeling like myself again.

            3. Another Academic Librarian

              My one experience with antidepressants was when I was in grad school and my doctor wanted to try treating my chronic migraines with one (an off-label use but apparently pretty common). Except for me they caused the opposite reaction, SPLITTING HEADACHES ALL THE TIME. I vividly remember sitting on the floor outside of a classroom talking on the phone with the doctor–with him telling me that meds couldn’t be possibly causing my terrible headaches even though their onset corresponded with starting the medication almost exactly. I kept telling him that while they might not be the cause, they were obviously failing to improve my migraines. All I wanted to know was how to stop them safely (because I didn’t want to take them any more, and I kind of thought I was in charge of that decision?), but he wouldn’t tell me, so I finally just quit taking them and hoped for the best. And he was specialist at a well-known hospital!

              1. Rovannen

                My doctor also tried treating my migraines with an anti-depressant. Colored my world grey. I couldn’t even gather enough emotion to be happy or sad. I quit taking them 6 months in, but I honestly can’t remember if they helped my headaches, that time of my life is a blur. When I was finally diagnosed as gluten-intolerant, the headaches disappeared.

                1. Another Academic Librarian

                  I didn’t have that particular problem, but I do remember that it took *stopping* the antidepressants for me to realize that they were also making me feel anxious and vaguely upset–like this white noise of unease in the background all the time. You have my sympathies!

            4. Boss Cat Meme

              I went to our campus health services for pain in my stomach and abdomen that came and went. I thought it was an ulcer. After explaining it to the nurse, she told me to undress and wait for the doctor. Twenty minutes later, I’m sitting on the table in a paper dress when the nurse returned with a bottle of a penicillin type drug, and told me the doctor said it was probably an STD and to take these pills for 8 days. Why would they think that? Because on the 20 page health history form I had to complete, there was ONE question that asked if I had sex within the past six months, and I answered yes. I asked the nurse if the doctor should actually examine me if he thought I had an STD? Then she says, she needs the name(s) of all my partners so they can be notified! I told her no way and started to leave and that’s when she finally got the doctor to come in. I KNEW I was clean and my “partner” was my college boyfriend of a few months, but honestly, you never know, right? The medical issue was that I had become lactose intolerant after a long trip to China, and drinking milk gave me stomach aches.

              1. ljs_lj

                Campus health people are often so terrible. I had a doctor refuse to believe that I had never had sex (I was 23 – I was hoping to get treatment for the period that would.not.stop. (thank you, PCOS) not a lecture about how hardly anyone is still a virgin at that age) and a SPECIALIST who stood across the room from me and said “Well, I don’t see anything,” when I asked if I could try some medication that was supposed to help with the hirsutism that is common with PCOS. I’m blonde – it’s generally not noticable unless you are right up in my face, but who cares about that? It was bothering me and that’s all that should matter. What’s worse for me personally is that both of these doctors were women and should have been at least a little sympathetic rather than hostile.

                Of course I’ve had some good campus health people and some terrible off-campus health people, but really. If you’re going to work with college students, who maybe are navigating the health system for the first time on their own and haven’t learned to advocate for themselves yet, you need a decent bedside manner and not to be an asshole.

          4. Kelly L.

            For most people I know, the campus clinic was mostly a place to be suspected of being pregnant. Flu? Pregnant. Migraine? Pregnant. Sprained ankle? Pregnant.

            1. Lia

              My roommate and I were walking across campus one afternoon, when she stumbled and twisted her ankle. It immediately began to swell, so we hustled over to the campus clinic to get it taken care of. The FIRST thing the intake nurse asked when my roommate said “I think I sprained my ankle, it hurts like crazy and look at this swelling” was if she was pregnant. Not where it happened, if she had felt it snap, or anything else.

              1. fposte

                A friend had a similar version of this, but what the nurse said was “You know, syphilis can often settle in the joints.”

              2. Engineer Girl

                One of my friends had the campus doctor tell her that she must be pregnant. AFTER she told the doctor about her hysterectomy.

                1. Collarbone High

                  I had a hysterectomy five years ago, and I have NEVER made it through a doctor’s visit since without being asked when my last period was. Even when the tech/nurse/doctor has just spent five minutes looking over the intake form where under “list all major surgeries” the first thing there is “hysterectomy.”

              3. Elizabeth the Ginger

                While it probably shouldn’t be the first question, it is important for medical professionals to know if someone’s pregnant before prescribing medication. It is funny how very focused campus clinics were on pregnancy, though – in my adult life, when I’ve sought medical help for something urgent (like a sprained ankle or strep), that’s never been the leading question.

                1. SophieChotek

                  Yes – that was my thought also — asking about medications.
                  But it sounds like this often clumsily asked.
                  And if it is first, points to an underlying assumption about the “morals” and “irresponsibility” (?) of college-aged women…ugh…(Sorry if I am misinterpreting. No offense intended.)

            2. Not the Droid You are Looking For

              I took so many pregnancy tests! My favorite was when I went in for pink eye and they made me take a test!

              1. Bob Roberts

                The go-to eye drops for pink eye are actually really bad for pregnant or nursing people, so it was good they tested you if there was a chance you could be pregnant.

                1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

                  There was no chance I could be pregnant (which I told them) and they made me take the test before the doctor even evaluated me to see if it was pink eye.

                2. Emma the Strange

                  Yeah, I’ve gotten MRIs at a hospital where they pregnancy test everyone who is even theoretically capable of being pregnant before sticking them in the machine, just as as a matter of course. I mentioned how irritating this was to an MRI tech there, and she told me about getting 13 year old girls tested and the conversations with outraged parents angry at the implication that their precious babies might have had sex. Which, come to think of it, is actually a good argument for a blanket policy. A kid who’d been sexually active probably wouldn’t answer honestly about it under those circumstances.

                3. doreen

                  And they forget to ask me sometimes when I have tests done – or ask the question so late in the process that it delays the test (because I have used the restroom in the meantime and now I have to provide a sample) It may be that most 53 year olds have stopped menstruating, but this one unfortunately hasn’t.

            3. Recent Grad

              Hahaha yes. I passed out at track practice and had to go to the campus doc to get cleared again, and they had me pee in a cup without telling me it was for a pregnancy test. There was absolutely ZERO chance I was pregnant (unless you believe in immaculate conception) and I had already told her as much.

            4. hi.

              Not just campus docs! I’m gay and I’ve had more doctors insist on a pregnancy test than I can count. I’m pushing 40, married, and completely monogamous, and still frequently have to remind doctors and nurses that NO, TWO WOMEN CANNOT MAKE A BABY TOGETHER BY ACCIDENT. It has to be intentional, it’s expensive and time consuming and involves a lot of doctors appointments, so I’m not going to freaking FORGET if I recently got artificially inseminated.

              1. Anonymousaurus Rex

                Ugh. This has totally happened to me. One time I had to report the type of birth control I was on before being prescribed a particular medication. I told the nurse, uh, I’m gay. Her response was that his wasn’t sufficient to get access to the medication, instead she’ll just write down that I use condoms. Talk about alienating!

            5. irritable vowel

              Yeah, that was always the joke on my campus – it didn’t matter what you went to the health clinic for, they would always make you take a pregnancy test. We had a male professor who taught a public health class and he told us about going to the campus health clinic to be tested for HIV (so he would know what that experience was like), and even he joked, “You know, the weirdest thing was when they asked me to take a pregnancy test first.”

            6. Kyrielle

              The _only_ time I remember myself or any of my female friends having an experience with campus health that didn’t go to asking about being pregnant, the young woman in question reported that she was feeling nauseous and sometimes throwing up and had been for over a week, her period was late, and she was sexually active.

              They told her to go rest, she had a virus. She, of course, was pregnant.

              It provided us way too much bitter amusement.

            7. ThatGirl

              Yep, one of my roommates fell off her bunk and broke her arm and they tried to give her a pregnancy test.

            8. INTP

              Are you pregnant?
              Are you sure?
              How do you know for sure?

              I’ve had that issue with urgent care centers. A doctor once denied me the broadest spectrum antibiotic for my recurrent UTIs (cipro, I’m allergic to most abx) because I HAD TAKEN A NEGATIVE PREGNANCY TEST THE DAY BEFORE. In his mind no one takes a pregnancy test unless they are probably pregnant I guess? I had been using protection and had no reason to suspect I was pregnant, but I had been using BCP to prevent my period so I was using pee sticks as “just making sure” thing. I thought “I took a negative test yesterday” would be a convincing answer to “how do you know you’re not pregnant?” but apparently not.

            9. AcademiaNut

              I’m willing to grant campus health centres the automatic pregnancy test.

              I’m pretty sure it’s policy because of the sheer number of times they’ve asked “is it possible that you’re pregnant” and the patient answered “No” meaning “I don’t want to be pregnant,” not “I haven’t had heterosexual intercourse since my last normal period.” or “I don’t have uterus”.

              Even the last period question can be wrong, as implantation bleeding can be mistaken for a light period.

          5. Angela

            I once went to mine thinking I was having a heart attack. She correctly diagnosed it as a panic attack and then gave me an entire bag full of xanax samples. I loved her for it, but it cannot be a good idea to give a college kid a bag full of a super-abusable drug.

          6. Marillenbaum

            Oh my God, I’m so sorry that happened to you! I was really fortunate when I accessed counseling services at my university–my therapist was a counseling student working at the center for her practical component, and we happened to “click” really well from the beginning. It really is a crapshoot, though.

            1. Elizabeth West

              It totally is. In my first school (I’ve been to college a couple of times), I had a short-term issue and the campus counsellor was actually really great. The second time, I was in the middle of a very serious bout of situational depression and got the worst person ever. I feel bad for anyone with a major problem who went to her.

          7. CMT

            Aww, this is so sad to hear :( When I was in grad school the campus mental health professionals I saw were so kind and good. I would have had such a hard time finishing school without their help.

          8. hi.

            Speaking of bad campus docs, one time I had kidney stones and the campus urgent care doc was adamant that I needed to poop and I’d feel fine. She kept saying, “there’s nothing here indicating that this is any more than gas pain or constipation, I need you to head home and just wait this out.” My skin was gray, I was sweating buckets, sobbing, and vomiting with a slight fever. Lady, I am 23*, I know the difference between needing to poop and feeling like I’m someone is on the inside of my body trying to stab their way out. I went home and passed out from the pain, my roommate came running in and called 911. That stupid doc would’ve have saved me a lot of ambulance and ER fees if she’d listened to me and sent me straight over to the hospital with a referral!

            *at the time. Currently uh, a lot older.

            1. eplawyer

              Got everyone beat. In my 2nd year of law school, I had high blood pressure (duh). I went to the campus clinic. The doctor walked in and said “We need to refer you somewhere else because I’m not going to be responsible for you dying.” Yep, really helped my blood pressure.

              I went to different doctor who talked to me, decided meds were not necessary and actually helped. My blood pressure was down naturally in 2 months (turns out microwave meals which are all a 2n year law student has time for are really really really really high in salt). Never a problem since then.

            2. Elizabeth West

              I went to the ER with a stone once and the doctor said in this very patronizing voice, “Sometimes, in little girls, gas gets trapped in the intestine and it can feel really uncomfortable.” Um…

              This was on a Friday, and of course the hospital notified my doctor on Monday. He called me HIMSELF to tell me he’d looked at the X-ray and there was a stone on it. He was like, “I’m looking right at it!” I told him exactly which doctor it was and gave him permission to unload on the guy, LOL.

              1. Aurion

                Ugh, I’ve had two instances of intestinal inflammation (not just a virus) that renders me incapable of eating much of anything for about three weeks. “Stomach” (yes I know it’s not really the stomach) flu that’s over in three days, fine. Three weeks of cramping shooting pains 30-45 minutes after I eat anything, not fine.

                I’m good at documentation, and I have a decent doctor, so my doctor took me seriously, booked me for blood tests and ultrasounds, the whole nine yards. The ultrasound technician did mutter “it’s probably just gas, those sometimes hurt”. I was exhausted and in pain so I didn’t argue the point, but oh, if looks could kill…

                (The issue went away shortly after I started some probiotics after my doctor ruled out everything else she thought might have been a factor. Not sure if it was the probiotics that helped or whatever it is just wore out. I usually don’t take probiotics and I do just fine, so who knows.)

                1. Ineloquent

                  This is depressingly similar to an issue I’ve had for almost eight years on and off. It happens often as a result of eating lite options at restaurants like Olive Garden, and select foods like miso, raw apples and watermelon can set it off. It sucks a lot and I’ve spent a lot of time investigating it. I wonder if yours is similar?

                2. Aurion

                  Unfortunately not. At the time of my flareups, I had not tried any new restaurants or eaten anything I hadn’t eaten dozens of times. And during the flareups, 95% of things I ate set it off even if 1) I’d eaten it before with no problems and 2) after the illness faded, I ate it again with no problems. But during those 4 weeks or so, anything more complicated than oatmeal with chicken broth was a no.

                  After going through issues like gluten and Crohn’s and all that, she told me to try a probiotic. I started drinking homemade kefir (very probiotic) at the same time. I stopped the probiotic pills after the illness faded, and I’m an intermittent kefir drinker at best, but I do just fine.

                  Bodies are weird.

          9. SystemsLady

            Ugh. My brother is having academic trouble in college and recently developed really bad anxiety. That was immediately identified and the campus psychiatrist threw a bunch of anti-anxiety agents at it. None of them really worked, and the ones that finally did a little bit gave him lots of side effects (…and he still had academic troubles).

            So finally they test him for various learning disorders, everything negative, but they notice attention issues.

            At last, the campus therapist told him…he is not allowed to diagnose ADHD, but definitely go elsewhere, OK!

            At least he told him that, though!!! Apparently a lot of them directly accuse you of drug seeking when you present with ADHD-like symptoms and so much as mention a sibling who has it. I get the skepticism, but realizing your problem in college or adulthood happens (I’m so glad I didn’t figure that out in college).

            (On an unrelated note, he had to wait two months to get in at our hometown place over the summer, and then they refused to even *test* him for ADHD until he took yet another month of anti-anxiety drugs. It’s like they won’t even listen to a fairly decent campus therapist because they have such a bad reputation.)

            1. Marie

              UGH adult ADHD. I’m in my thirties and recently got diagnosed, which makes SO MUCH of my life finally make sense. I was lucky enough to find a psychiatrist who believes adult ADHD exists, but I’ve still had to pay for everything out of pocket. My health insurance doesn’t outright say adult ADHD doesn’t exist, but they won’t cover testing if the purpose of the testing is “solely” for diagnosis and treatment. Is there… some other reason to get testing? Would they prefer I don’t get tested and just find some psychiatrist willing to hand out stimulants to anybody?

          10. Mander

            My favorite was the time I went to see the doctor about symptoms that seemed cardiac but turned out to be panic attacks. Not only did he somehow turn it into a lecture about losing weight, but he also handed me a sheet of diet advice that included sage advice like don’t cook your vegetables in bacon fat and try having oatmeal for breakfast instead of steak and eggs (!) — after I had just finished explaining my then near-vegan diet.

            It was nearly 10 years before someone took the anxiety and panic attack issues seriously.

            1. Pix

              I had a burst ovarian cyst and the doctor I saw for it told me it was “indigestion” from “eating too much.”

              Direct quote.

              I don’t think I’ve ever yelled at a doctor before that, but it has inspired me not to take a doctor’s word during an appointment as gospel. That’s sure as hell helped, actually, because when dealing with a bout of C. difficile, everyone but everyone wants to send you to the damn hospital. (Protip: Do not do not do not do this unless first line treatment doesn’t fix it. Proprotip: Clindamycins, dangerous.)

            2. Marie

              I once had a doctor compliment me on my perfect blood pressure, resting heart rate, and cholesterol (I was a pescatarian who biked everywhere at the time), and her only recommendation for me was to print out my overweight BMI and put it on the fridge so I had to see it every time I wanted to eat. The medical field really needs to deal with its food and weight issues.

          11. So Very Anonymous

            I had a campus gynecologist send me to the ER for a suspected ectopic pregnancy, because I’d almost leapt off the table with pain on my left side during an exam. (The particular side is a part of the story). No one believed me saying that I couldn’t possibly be pregnant because I hadn’t seen my boyfriend, who lived an hour away, for over a month (grad school = stressful). Nope, young woman in university = nonstop sex with anyone, right? When I went back to the doctor, she told me that I’d been sent to the ER for pain on my right side. No, I said, left side. No, she said, right side. At which point I got angry and told her that if I’d had pain on my *right* side she’d have sent me to the ER for appendicitis!

            When I finally got real health insurance, I went to a real gynecologist who looked at my records from campus health and informed me that I’d been treated multiple times for STDs. Which I did not ever have. Both my bf and I had been super vigilant about being tested because we’d both been cheated on. They’d tell me I had a cervical infection and inject me with something — which was for an STD, turned out. Really sketchy.

        2. Annyy

          I once had a doctor tell me that I was depressed because I wasn’t married with children. This was not a campus doctor. He was a GP who had been in practice for years. I had asked him for a referral to a therapist. He actually told me to just get married and have a family. He was completely serious. I had to practically beg for the referral. SMH

          1. Janice in Accounting

            In addition to giving terrible, sexist advice, did he think that could happen overnight? Like, “Oh, okay, I need to get married to feel better . . . excuse me sir, you look nice, let’s head to the courthouse! And now all my problems are SOLVED!”

          2. bridget

            Good god. Let’s pretend for one sec that he had a magical ability to stare into your soul and know that you WOULD be happier married with a family. Was he going to write you a script for a spouse and 2.5 kids, to be delivered from behind the pharmacy counter? Or did he legitimately think it was an acceptable solution to embark on a life journey of indeterminate years and attainability in order to avoid a co-pay at the therapist’s office?

        3. Former Usher

          I went to the on-campus mental health center ONCE. During the initial interview, the only suggestion I received was to drop out of school. It would have been a several month wait to see a therapist there on a regular basis, but I didn’t need any more of that kind of “help.”

          1. So Very Anonymous

            My undergraduate college’s therapist (one of two for the whole college) told me she wouldn’t work with me because I talked too much. What?

        4. afiendishthingy

          The first time I ever sought treatment for depression and anxiety – severe episode brought on by being in a foreign country working at a job that was a terrible fit for me – the therapist told me I needed to decide whether I was gay or straight. because that was the issue.

          Thank god I have an awesome therapist now.

      2. Anna

        It’s true, but what is really important to focus on (if this were Amy writing in) is that just because it’s out of control RIGHT NOW doesn’t mean it isn’t manageable at all. If this were another medical condition we would have the same advice.

        1. Leatherwings

          Totally true and very important point! I guess I just don’t want anyone approaching Amy or someone in a similar situation with frustration over them not managing or treating it because it’s so “easy” to do or something.

        2. LBK

          Yeah, I took “anxiety is manageable” to mean that there’s treatment available for it that allows most people with anxiety to lead relatively normal lives, not that she just needs to get over it. Of course, the horrible catch-22 is that anxiety and other mental illnesses often make seeking treatment a painful process because you have to do so many things that your mental illnesses make challenging, if not impossible. It’s like being expected to walk 10 miles before you can get help for your broken leg. But you don’t get there if you never start.

          1. BTW

            Speaking from experience, just adjusting to the meds is hell. It makes you more anxious before it starts to work. I wanted to die. Literally. I thought about it a lot. The side effects were terrible (nausea, migraines, hot flashes, insomnia etc. – all to the extreme) and I never want to experience that ever, ever again. Adjusting is a hurdle in and of itself. I spent a week and a half off work just to adjust. My managers’ husband spent a month in bed when switching to a new anti-anxiety med. Getting treatment is a good first step but it’s by far the hardest part.

      3. Lily in NYC

        Ugh, Leatherwings, I can’t imagine how awful it must be to have daily panic attacks. I’ve only had a few in my life, and the “hangover” afterwards is almost worst than the actual panic attack. I have so much sympathy for people who have chronic anxiety/panic attacks because it must suck so hard.

        1. Leatherwings

          Thanks. It was not a fun couple of years. Once I was actually medicated it was like I became an entirely different person! I have a lot of sympathy for Amy because I know how painful and hopeless severe anxiety can be.

        2. Floral Laurel

          I never considered myself an anxious person, or a person with anxiety, until my work stress left me convulsing in the middle of the night, irrationally lashing out at people I love, and leaving my desk to have full-on breakdowns in the bathroom. I ended up being hospitalized. I have a new job now and I have been better able to manage my triggers. I now have so much more compassion and empathy for those experiencing anxiety.

          I really hope Amy can work through this! OP, please give us an update.

        3. BTW

          Lily in NYC – Your comment is comforting. At one point while adjusting to my meds, I paced my laundry room for 3 hours straight because it was the only thing that made me feel better. But I got to a point where I had to stop because I physically couldn’t hold myself up anymore. I haven’t been that tired and exhausted in my entire life.

  6. ann perkins

    I have bad anxiety in certain situations – mostly planes and trains. As long as we’re moving, I’m fine. But if we’re just sitting there with the doors closed, I feel trapped. I have xanax for this. It works. In fact, just knowing I have it means sometimes I don’t have to take it. Point being, Amy needs to talk to her doctor if she hasn’t already. Anxiety is miserable and it owns you until you make the decision to own that bitch back.

    1. GT

      I have the same issue! I have mild claustrophobia. As soon as that car/train/plane stops, I WANT OFF. I have to work very hard to control myself. Glad to know I’m not the only one, and you have something that works for you!

    2. BTW

      +1. I have additional anxiety issues but stopping at a red light or being stuck in traffic is huge for me. If I’m in the passengers seat I’ll stare at the door handle. LOL. Driving is when I use breathing the most. Ugh. It sucks haha!

  7. ZSD

    1) Can someone who’s somewhat close to Amy suggest that she get therapy for this? It sounds like she’s in a dreadful mental state, and it would be great for her to get help.
    2) This might be extreme, but would Amy feel better if she moved to a smaller city? I grew up in a small town, and I’ll admit that I was very nervous when I first moved to what I considered a “big city” – of 80,000 people. I’ve now gotten used to living in places with 500k+ people, but if Amy really can’t handle that, maybe she’d just feel safer if she moved to a more rural environment. (The fact that she has a partner makes this more difficult, of course.)

    1. virago

      According to an update from the OP, Amy has recently started therapy. (I was glad to read this, because it does sound like Amy’s having a terribly tough time right now.)

    2. Hibiscus

      Moving to a rural area to treat anxiety is like shooting yourself in the head to get rid of a headache. She currently has a job, and a partner, and the job hopefully allows her to have access to doctors, benefits, time off, etc. A rural area is going to limit her chances of finding medical care, require driving, might less professional opportunities. Amy needs to get (more) control of her anxiety in her current situation at least and then decide what works for her .

      Not to mention, living in a rural area comes with its own anxieties. Amy might start focusing on “I can’t cut a bagel because what if I cut my hand and can’t call an ambulance and then I bleed to death…” and “It might rain and I can’t go anywhere because what if there’s an accident and then I run off the road and get stuck…” and “That’s a serial killer, I know it!”

    3. Observer

      I don’t really think it’s anyone’s place to make suggestions about what in particular Amy should do, beyond “get professional help”.

      Having said that, I also think that with anxiety of this level the issue is not where she lives. Unless there is something like a stalker in the background that we don’t know about, this is not a reaction, or even an over-reaction, to her environment. I’m not saying that lifestyle changes won’t help. But “the big, scary, overwhelming city” is not the issue. And, for some people a small town or rural environment is even more anxiety provoking. For someone who is afraid to be alone, I would think that a rural environment would be the exact opposite of peaceful.

      1. Elsajeni

        Yes! I find camping or staying in a rural area super anxiety-inducing — at least in the city, if a bear, axe-murderer, or axe-murdering bear attacks me, someone will probably be close enough to hear me yelling about it!

  8. Teacher teacher!

    Amy needs professional and medic help immediately to manage her anxiety. OP when you talk to her manager, hopefully your company will allow her time off to get this taken care of.

    When you and your coworkers tell her no, I would also recommend telling her at the beginning of the work day. As a person with anxiety issues, at my worst I found it more manageable when I knew something “bad” was going to happen so I could anticipate and plan for it. Just my two cents.

    Best of luck to you and. Your coworker.

    1. IT Kat

      I have anxiety too (managed with therapy, and granted not as bad as Amy) but honestly, I get WORSE if I know something “bad” is going to happen and I have to deal with it all day. Just throwing that out there that telling someone early might not have the expected response… all depends on the individual person. The OP can definitely try this, but to me, personally, it would come off weird and more anxiety-inducing than waiting until I asked would be.

      1. Anna

        Which just indicates each person has different reactions, but it’s not really up to the coworkers to manage Amy’s reactions or try to figure out the best time to tell her no. The whole situation is crappy and being kind to Amy is important, but she’s also an adult human and not a delicate and fragile flower.

        1. IT Kat

          “Which just indicates each person has different reactions”

          Yup, that’s all I was trying to get across. I wasn’t suggesting that it’s the OP’s problem to manage – it most definitely is not. I was just trying to say “if the OP tries Teacher teacher’s suggestion, here’s a caution”.

    2. fposte

      And it’s not the coworkers’ obligation to manage Amy’s anxiety by the way they tell her no any more than it is by taking her home and staying with her.

  9. DrivingMsCrazy

    I feel bad for Amy, I really do. I was diagnosed last year with GAD– generalized anxiety disorder– but even with panic attacks I wouldn’t dream of asking co-workers to stay at home with me so I wasn’t alone. Someone please help Amy (and yourselves) by speaking up to the manager so Amy can get the help sheobviously needs!

  10. Naomi

    Does your company have EAP? It sounds like Amy is in need of help and it’s not fair to ask her coworkers to provide it. I want to suggest asking Amy if she’s getting therapy or other treatment, except that seems like crossing a boundary into None Of Your Business–and the whole point is that it’s Amy’s responsibility to deal with her anxiety, not yours or that of other employees.

    1. Marillenbaum

      Exactly. This seems like exactly the sort of situation where EAP and FMLA would be useful; Amy’s anxiety is severely impacting her ability to be effective at work (even if she is still meeting her benchmarks, I would argue that the constant requests are damaging her reputation and relationships with coworkers).

    2. Roxanne

      But if she’s asking people to stay with her at her home (and what are they doing all the time they are there?) or asking to join people on their personal business after work so that she’s not alone, it starts to become “your” business as well because she’s now involved in your business.

    3. OP

      I’m not sure about the EAP. I’m inclined to think we don’t have one, because we’re such a small startup and I haven’t heard anything about it before.

      1. KellyK

        It’s the sort of thing that usually gets mentioned every year with benefits, so I think you’d know if you had one. Or are you informal enough that you don’t have those yearly benefits meetings?

      2. Gizmoz2cents

        NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is a resource for people suffering from mental illness issues and might be a good place to start. Amy might even find a support group that she can stay with after work that will help her through this issue. Your employer sponsored health insurance carrier also can be a source of help with these things.

  11. Snarkus Aurelius

    While I sympathize with Amy, you all need to stop helping her completely.  I know that it’s not your intention to enable her behavior, but that’s exactly what you’re doing because she’s avoiding any attempt to learn coping strategies.  (Ultimately that’s what she needs to do, but that wasn’t your question.)  

    There’s no solution to this problem in sight for your office; Amy clearly has figured out the solution to her problems.  Change is definitely needed here.

    I don’t know who said it, but “no” is a complete sentence.  Although it’s awkward, you don’t need to provide any excuse or alternate plans or elaborate defenses.  To quote Miss Manners, you can say that you have other plans and leave it at that.  

    If nothing else, this is a major teachable moment for lower level staff and interns.  (Yes, really!)  This scenario is the perfect environment for them to not only learn to say no but do so with the knowledge that upper management will have their backing.  That’s a critical skill to learn.  Most importantly, they’ll learn that although there’s a power differential, that is no reason to give in to every single request you get.  You can also remind them that in a perfect world, higher ups would be cognizant of that power differential, but that’s not how things always work out.

    1. Marillenbaum

      These are all excellent points. Maintaining your boundaries is the kindest thing here, because 1) it doesn’t allow the coworker to keep using you in lieu of getting treatment, and 2) it helps avoid the risk of becoming resentful of Amy because you aren’t continually doing things you don’t want to do.

    2. AndersonDarling

      I was thinking the same thing. The co-workers have become Amy’s coping strategy, and she won’t find another strategy/get better help until she can no longer use this method. And it must cause additional stress because Amy goes to work every day not knowing who will take her home.

    3. 2 Cents

      As someone who has a family member with crippling anxiety and a host of other mental health issues, the kindest thing you can do for yourself and for Amy is to say no — and stick to it. It’s really, really hard, especially when you see Amy is hurting. But you need to create and enforce your personal/professional boundaries. Holding fast on your boundaries will help (hopefully) Amy to see that her current coping mechanisms are helping or appropriate. You said above she has a therapist, so hopefully she’s talking about how she’s coping with him/her.

    4. Boo

      This is a great point.

      I also can’t help but think that Amy will only end up getting anxious about whether or not she can get a coworker to drive her home and stay with her if it’s done inconsistently – better to break it off completely and looking at other options, such as re-visiting her working from home until she can get medication/therapy to the point that she feels well enough to come back to work.

    5. LBK

      I’m iffy about this line of reasoning. While I agree that in the long run, enabling behavior like this does just allow Amy to go on without getting real treatment, suddenly being cut off from all her supports like that could make things a hell of a lot worse, especially if she’s not already under professional care. Yeah, exposure therapy is effective, but it’s supposed to be done gradually in relatively controlled circumstances. Taking it upon yourselves to collectively force her to face her fears isn’t the right way to do it.

      1. Boo

        This is true, but

        a) Amy’s coworkers aren’t her only support, she also has a partner and if management talk to her then she’ll know they want to help her through this in a compassionate way which doesn’t continue to impact her coworkers, and a therapist/doctor.
        b) it’s not on Amy’s coworkers to continue providing lifts/sitting with her/taking her with them for any longer if they can’t/don’t want to – they aren’t her therapists and they’re not providing therapy.

        1. LBK

          I agree that it’s not their responsibility per se and that they aren’t/shouldn’t be her only form of support, I just disagree that cutting her off is the best or kindest approach. I don’t like the attitude that this is in Amy’s best interest and that you as an external person know how to help her – because, as you say, you’re not her therapist and you’re not providing her therapy.

      2. motherofdragons

        The coworkers aren’t Amy’s only sources of support, though. Amy has her spouse, and OP shared that she recently started therapy. And “support” to me sounds like the wrong word to describe the great lengths that she is asking her coworkers to go to, in order for her to feel safe. Why would Amy feel the need to seek help if what’s currently happening is working for her? The best case scenario here seems to be one in which the coworkers hold their own (completely reasonable) boundaries, and Amy’s manager supports her in getting the help she needs via an EAP or something of the sort.

      3. Alton

        I agree with your concerns, in that I don’t think that her coworkers should take it upon themselves to cut her off “for her own good” without guidance from her doctor. But I also don’t think they’re responsible for being her support system, or that they need to go out of their way to rearrange their own lives to help her. Yes, there’s a risk that she won’t be able to handle it well, but there’s a limit to what they can realistically do for her. I think they need to break the cycle for their own sakes.

        1. LBK

          I agree with your concerns, in that I don’t think that her coworkers should take it upon themselves to cut her off “for her own good” without guidance from her doctor.

          Yes, I think this is the piece that really irked me. I think for the sake of their own sanity and having their own lives, the coworkers are perfectly within their right to stop helping her like this, I just don’t like it being framed as for Amy’s own good.

      4. Temperance

        Eh, it’s not their responsibility in the first place to babysit their coworker or manage her mental health. I would feel incredibly imposed upon and frankly triggered if someone tried this on me.

      5. Tea

        But her coworkers are NOT her supports– at least, not in this way. And it is really inappropriate (not saying that you’re being inappropriate, so much as the entire situation is so inappropriate!) for them to be assigned any responsibility for Amy’s emotional well being beyond their usual duties of being a good and courteous coworker. If they all collectively say no, perhaps that would have a horrible impact on Amy, but that’s…. that’s really not their problem. The problem is that Amy is making her problems their responsibility to take care of. Whatever Amy chooses to do in the short or long term isn’t really an issue for the OP.

        1. Boo

          Yes, this. It would be sad if it had a detrimental effect on Amy, but her mental health isn’t her coworker’s responsibility. They should feel able to act in their own best interests, rather than Amy’s – and frankly we don’t know what issues her coworkers are dealing with either.

    6. Megs

      This is exactly what I was thinking. I’m guessing that the coworkers who are agreeing to do this because they feel bad and want to help, but even without knowing Amy’s specific condition, it’s clear that this is not an appropriate way of addressing it and that the well-intentioned co-workers are actually doing her a disservice by allowing it to go on. If I were comfortable enough with her, I might try and say something in private like, “I really can’t take you home outside of an emergency, but I am worried about you and hope you are getting help.” I guess it depends on the relationship and the individual, of course, but I know that sometimes having people acknowledge that something is very wrong can be a wake-up call if the individual thinks they’re managing their anxiety when they really aren’t.

  12. IT Kat

    What an awful situation all around.

    I agree with everyone else – speak to her manager, and also, remember that “no” is a complete sentence. Develop a script and stick to it:

    Her: “Can you drive me home?”
    You: “No, sorry, I can’t.” (You don’t need to explain why here.)
    Her: “Why not?”
    You: “Sorry, I can’t.”
    Her: “Can I go with you to , if you can’t drive me home?”
    You: “No, sorry, I can’t. See you tomorrow.”

    If you don’t mind driving her home sometimes, then you can use a modified version of this script:
    Her: “Thanks for driving me home. Can you come inside and stay for a while?”
    You: “No, sorry, I can’t. See you tomorrow.”
    Her: “Please?? I really need the company. ”
    You: “No, sorry, I can’t. See you tomorrow.”
    Repeat ad nauseam.

    Bonus points if you arm the interns with this script as well.

    1. March

      +1

      I was going to say this myself. I feel for Amy, I really do, but she can’t ask this of her co-workers.

    2. Marisol

      In a case like this, if someone really starts nagging you, I would prefer not to repeat my answer ad nauseam but to directly address the nagging: “you’ve asked me three times. My answer will not change, so please stop asking me.” Cuz wasting someone’s time with the same question is also a boundary violation. Although I can’t imagine the exchange would need to get this adversarial in this situation–seems like something softer might work.

      1. CMT

        “Cuz wasting someone’s time with the same question is also a boundary violation.” So true!

      2. Marie

        I’ve had good luck with “(repeat broken record line again) and I don’t want to repeat myself again.” Mostly used that with pushy sales people.

    3. Just a Thought

      I think this script is great, but wanted to add that it can be really really hard to stick to if someone is in a full blown panic attack. It can feel very cruel to leave someone in that state. I imagine that is what begins to happen when people turn Amy down and so then they feel compelled to stay or say yes.

      I wonder if Amy’s manager could have a conversation with her where she tells her that from x point forward, no co-workers are going to be able to drive her home or stay with her. And then Amy’s partner can know to and be prepared for the panicked phone calls when everyone has left her in the office.

      The truth of the matter is, it is going to be quite painful for everyone to set this boundary because Amy is currently unable to control her anxiety and I imagine she will have a really hard time when the boundary begins to be enforced. Like many people who have posted already I have also had periods of dealing with anxiety, especially after my son was born. At one point my poor husband had to listen to me snot-cry on the phone while he was at work and I was on maternity leave. And then he had to go because he was at work, so he had to hang up on his wife sobbing on the phone. But there was nothing else he could do in the moment.

      My point is, it may feel very heart-less to people in the office to tell Amy no and leave her if she is really panicking. Good luck.

      1. fposte

        I’m afraid you’re right–that the level of Amy’s distress could make it very hard for people to walk away from. There’s no easy answer to that aside from making it clear to staff that they not only aren’t expected to drive Amy home they are asked *not* to do it–which may be farther than a workplace wants to go.

        1. Isben Takes Tea

          I agree that it can feel cruel to leave someone in a state of having a panic attack, but it could be helpful for the OP and her colleagues to know that the first thing doctors tell sufferers of panic attacks is that no one has ever died from a panic attack. Yes, they can have intense physiological effects (I know–I have passed out from them before), but they are not medical emergencies in the same way that, say, a heart attack is.

          1. fposte

            The thing is, that’s getting into a level of briefing that’s at the least unusual and I would say of questionable appropriateness. And most people aren’t going to find it that much easier to walk away from a sobbing colleague just because they know it’s not fatal.

      2. Temperance

        I hope that they just get it together and still do what might feel wrong. I grew up with a mentally ill parent who was prone to very outlandish, public spectacles and anxiety meltdowns, so if someone does that around me now, I just walk away, immediately. It stresses me out and triggers me very badly.

        I doubt that Amy’s boss knows what she’s doing, or the extent.

      3. SophieChotek

        I agree. If Amy is having a full-blown panic attack — most people are kind-hearted and want to help–so it really is hard to say “no” in the moment, even as resentful as they feel inside. (Plus they might be worrying about her safety/health, etc., or doing something “worse” if they don’t help her?)

        1. Just a Thought

          Exactly, unfortunatley, if she really is having full blown attacks, management may need to offer some coaching and support to the other employees. I do agree that the best thing for everyone including Amy is for this to stop being a coping strategy, but I do feel for everyone in the situation especially kind-hearted co-workers (and interns!) who may not have had a lot of experience with this particular illness.

    4. Shannon

      I know it gets into managing Amy’s anxiety for her, but, if you can’t wait at her house with her, it might be a good idea to mention that when she asks you for a ride and she agrees. Otherwise, you’re stuck with Amy having a panic attack in your car or something like that.

      1. fposte

        I would call that more defensive strategizing than managing, and I think it’s a good point.

  13. KellyK

    I feel for Amy too, but it’s really not fair to put your coworkers in this position. I personally, as a fellow anxiety sufferer, might ask Amy if she wants suggestions on coping strategies. That doesn’t mean you should or you have to, but that a coworker who’s in a similar boat might be able to offer some friendly support without letting Amy steamroll over their boundaries and tag along to their gym class or whatever.

    The only other thing I would add to Alison’s advice, which is all really good, is to acknowledge that it sucks for her, even just to say, “I know it’s really hard for you to be alone. I’m sorry you’re dealing with that.” (I wouldn’t bring it up out of the blue, but if she’s asking you to drive her home and stay with her, she’s already laid it out on the table.)

    1. Leatherwings

      I really really like the language in your second paragraph. It’s important to say no, but since Amy is obviously dealing with some stuff, softening it a bit with some acknowledgement is going to help her. I think it’s the compassionate thing to do.

      I don’t know if I would offer coping strategies though. It seems likely that Amy might stick like glue to that person. If the person offering the strategies feels comfortable setting and maintaining boundaries, maybe but it seems like she needs a doctor for this because her anxiety is so extreme.

      1. fposte

        I think it could be okay for an employee who’s been there and done that to offer support if she chooses, but you’re right that in Amy’s state that could be taken as volunteering to be the new “safe person.” So I’d say that anybody who offers would be wise to put structure on the offer from the start–“I’ve gone through some of that myself. I could talk to you about it over a quick coffee on Friday if you think it would be useful”–and to keep a close eye on the boundaries.

      2. KellyK

        Yeah, that’s true. It’s up to the coworker to gauge whether they feel like they can set clear boundaries and not have Amy expecting them to be their pseudo-therapist. And if I were that coworker, “Go to therapy” and “See a doctor; psych meds are a godsend,” would be two of my biggest pieces of advice. You can stave off a panic attack with meditation or breathing exercises, but that doesn’t get at the root problem.

  14. Anonymous in the South

    Her manager definitely needs to know (if they don’t already). Other than therapy and maybe a dog to help with the fear of being alone.

    It’s a tough situation but if Amy cannot manage her anxiety without coworkers driving her home and staying with her until she feels safe, maybe it’s time for her and/or her partner to talk with the doctor to see if her anxiety would be extreme enough to qualify for disability. I hate to suggest that and it would definitely be a last option, but her condition is imposing on the life of her coworkers and it shouldn’t be.

  15. Alison Read

    I hate to suggest delving into treating Amy’s illness – but perhaps encouraging her to join a gym that has an organized excercise program/class near work would kill two birds with one stone: solve the taking Amy home issue & exercise is helpful for mental illness. I realize this might involve a bit of upfront effort – accompanying Amy in the beginning, but the long term gain could be priceless. OP didn’t mention Amy’s work habits but did mention this tends to be an employer with long term/lifelong employees – as such maybe they’d be willing to make this investment in finding a safe space for Amy after work that won’t involve them sitting with her.

    1. fposte

      It’s a kind thought, but I can’t consider it a reasonable approach. The whole problem is that Amy is outsourcing her anxiety management to her colleagues. Changing how her colleagues manage that anxiety isn’t a solution.

    2. LBK

      I really, really don’t recommend telling a depressed/anxious person to work out because it will make them feel better. It’s about as kind and effective as telling them to just cheer up.

      1. IT Kat

        I agree. I’ve been given that advice in the past and it’s felt really insulting, even though I’m sure the person was coming from good intentions – but it felt like a “your problem is because you’re not doing this thing, tsk tsk”.

      2. Biff

        Errrr. Scientific evidence says that it work.s So no, it’s not like telling them to ‘cheer up’

        1. IT Kat

          So it works in every single situation? Including the ones where the person might have another medical issue causing depression/anxiety, or where they might be disabled and unable to do a “standard” workout, or where they might have an unrelated medical issue that makes it difficult to impossible to work out in a gym?

          Science says that it HELPS, not that it fixes all issues. Saying it “works” like it’s a broad fix-all is what I’m objecting too, and I’d guess what LBK was getting at as well.

          1. Marie

            While it does have a good success rate, the blanket advice fails to take context into account, or the illness itself. Exercise may be a wonderful addition to somebody who has already found some methods for coping with their illness that have stabilized them such that they can manage the fundamentals of their life. But not everybody is there yet, because they are very ill. When the literal definition of your disease is “unable to gather the will sufficient to engage in enjoyable and healthy tasks” prescribing “gather up your will and do something enjoyable and good for you!” is tone deaf and cruel. If people with anxiety and depression were capable of doing things that cheered them up and cured their illness, they would be doing it! The fact that they cannot is pretty much the entire thrust of the disease.

            1. Marie

              It’s like prescribing “straighten your arm” to somebody whose arm is broken. Having a straight arm is certainly the goal of treatment, an indication of success, and an outcome to maintain, but prescribing what successful health will look like is not the same thing as prescribing methods to get to successful health. A person with a mental illness who engages in regular exercise to maintain their mental health is a person who has already achieved some benchmark of mental health.

        2. fposte

          Unless you’re asked for input, it’s pretty much just as obnoxious, though. I mean, scientific evidence says that bariatric surgery works, too, but you don’t offer that suggestion unsolicitedly to overweight people.

            1. JaneB

              and works in what sense? Bariatric surgery is a good example, as whilst there are some wonderful success stories, a scarily high proportion of people who have it have severe life-limiting complications, multiple repeat hospitalisations etc. – and yes, the evidence is clear that at the POPULATION level exercise helps in many kinds of depression and anxiety – but within the dataset there will be individuals for whom it didn’t help, or who were made worse. That’s the nature of the evidence, and of any attempt to generalise about individuals.

              Me, I’d rather be home alone than ANYWHERE with PEOPLE in it (other than a very small circle of loved ones) when I’m anxious; although Amy and I may both have GAD, we clearly experience it very differently!

        3. Leatherwings

          Science also suggests that people who consciously try to be happy everyday are happier people. That doesn’t make it useful advice to give someone. It’s like telling someone with chronic pain that meditating helps – yeah there are studies that suggest that but:
          A. That doesn’t mean it works for everyone
          B. That’s in every self-help article on the internet so people already know and have heard it ten million times
          C. It’s assuming people with serious issues haven’t tried baseline things to help themselves. That’s not a nice or helpful assumption.

          It’s annoying and not useful, much like telling people to just work on being happy or “cheer up”

          1. Biff

            Yeah well, if you come to someone with a problem and suggest they solve it by driving you home and sitting with you, I think it’s perfectly valid for them to feel entitled to suggest a solution that you can do all on your own.

            1. Megs

              It’s valid, sure, but I think it’s probably more advisable to just say no, and maybe offer a generalized “I hope your getting help” or “I’m sorry you’re having a hard time right now.”

              1. Bibliovore

                I’m still pissed off at the manager when I said that I had had to leave early because I wasn’t feeling well. He persisted as to what was going on and I said cramps and he offered that perhaps I should exercise. I did not say that what would really help is a hot bath, major pain killers and carfare home.

                1. I'm a Little Teapot

                  Oh God no. If I exercise with cramps, I’m in agony. It is the very opposite of helpful.

                  Self-righteous gym rats who think exercise is a perfect panacea for everything just need to shut up.

            2. Leatherwings

              I think a kind “No, I’m sorry I can’t do that. I hope you have a good night” is much more helpful and less condescending.

            3. LBK

              I don’t know if that really tracks. I’m pretty sure our social norms don’t dictate that when someone asks you for a favor, it’s okay to give them broad life advice that may or may not even be manageable for them. It would be like if someone missed their bus and asked you for a ride home, and you replied “Have you considered buying a car?” I mean, yes, in the long run it would solve their problem of having to rely on the bus, but it’s not really a helpful response.

              1. Leatherwings

                Yes! And it’s… kind of a dick move to do something like that. It’s the assumption that the person didn’t think of that/try that/currently trying that on their own. It’s not like you’ve found the magical solution to fix all their problems overnight. Why act entitled to behave like you have?

              2. Anna

                Yeah. In fact, all advice I have read has pretty much said you should refuse to stop doing favors for these people but it’s not okay to tell them how to fix their problem.

              3. KellyK

                Yeah, I agree, and suggesting they buy a car is a perfect example here. If you’ve actually been there and done that, then it’s reasonable to *ask* if she wants suggestions and offer them if she says yes. But simply asking for a favor doesn’t obligate someone to listen to whatever suggestions you have for fixing their life.

            4. Observer

              No, it’s not valid to come back with a suggestion like that.

              What is valid is “No, I can’t help you. You should really get professional help.” Skip the diagnostics and treatment plans.

            5. MayravB

              Sure, they might feel entitled to, but let’s not pretend that giving people facile solutions is a compassionate response. If someone doesn’t want to engage in the “I’m worried about you, why don’t you talk to manager/EAP/consider getting help” conversation, they should just say, “No, I can’t drive you home.”

        4. Government Worker

          There’s also some scientific evidence that for a small percentage of people it makes things worse. My mother has been told for years to exercise because it will help with her depression and anxiety. She’s tried, and exercise makes her suicidal.

          Add in the factors that IT Kat mentions, and it’s really not great to try to nudge acquaintances into working out because you think it will help their mental health condition. It’s like telling them to adjust the dosage of their medication or try a new herbal remedy or something – maybe it would help, but that’s between the individual and his or her doctors and therapists.

          1. Anna

            Precisely the part about it being something to work with a therapist to decide, because they can then gauge the results and decide if it’s a worthwhile treatment. People in a depression spiral aren’t very good at looking at things objectively so if they have a bad reaction, there’s a tendency to blame themselves for it not working rather than it just not being the appropriate treatment for them.

          2. Chinook

            Government Work, I feel your mother’s pain. If she is like me and still wants to workout, I found what worked for was to have an outside source to confirm any positive benefits to exercise (otherwise I would happily sit on the couch and watch tv) and then treat exercise like taking a nasty but healthy vegetable. My fitbit tells me whether I am moving enough, my meal tracker helps me verify calories in vs. calories out and regular weigh-ins show the progress over time (My body also does the “swoosh effect” of not losing weight 1 lb a week regularly but holds on crazy to it for 3 or 4 weeks and then lets it go in 4 or 5 lb chunks, so I really need third party confirmation that this horrible thing called exercise is working). It basically replaced the missing internal reward of the runner’s high and gave me cold hard facts that my brain can’t deny.

        5. Megs

          I don’t think that’s the point though. I’ve been on the receiving end of such advice before and found it very frustrating, even if there is evidence that it helps. When you’re way down in a pit, it takes a lot of work to get out, and having someone who doesn’t know much about your particulars say “oh, you should join a gym” when I’m having panic attacks every time I leave the house isn’t helpful.

        6. LBK

          I’m not talking the effectiveness of exercise itself, I’m talking about offering unsolicited advice on how someone should manage their depression. It’s unbelievably obnoxious and unhelpful – most depressed people aren’t still basing their medical knowledge on the 1500s, they know that there are treatment options out there for mental health now. If they’re not seeking them it’s rarely because they aren’t aware or because enough people haven’t told them to do it yet (often without being asked).

          1. Kelly L.

            Yep, and people have usually heard the “usual suspects.” There are Bingo cards to satirize this, even. If they’re not using a particular method, there’s probably some reason, whether it’s “this actually makes it worse in my case” or “my doctor advised against it” or just plain “I don’t want to.” That doesn’t mean, of course, that the person should do what the OP’s co-worker does, but I’m sure she’s heard about exercise.

        7. Chinook

          “Scientific evidence says that it work.s So no, it’s not like telling them to ‘cheer up’”

          Ummm…not for everyone. DH is the first to point out that I am grumpiest during and after a workout (even if it is one that I am proud of an hour later). While for the majority of people, exercise induced endorphins give a “runner’s high,” for a small group it does the opposite. And then, on top of that, you feel like a failure because everyone else seems happy about working out, so there must be something wrong with you.

        8. Observer

          Actually, no. Science doesn’t say that. Science says that for SOME types of mental illness, exercise CAN be *helpful*. Which means that there is absolutely no way to know from the outside whether any exercise regimen is suitable for her, much less joining a gym, which could easily have its own set of anxiety inducing triggers.

          Also, beyond stopping to be enablers and encouraging her to get professional help, it’s just totally inappropriate for others to be essentially suggesting treatment modalities.

        9. Elizabeth West

          It might help her later, when she’s gotten it under more control. But right now, it’s so far out of control I’m not sure Amy could actually cope with going to a gym. OP did update that she’s in therapy now, so maybe it’s something the therapist will suggest at some point.

      3. FD

        I’m not sure that’s true! It probably doesn’t work for everyone, but I’ve definitely found it helps me, combined with other strategies and tools. I’ve also personally found it can be a good way of burning off panic-energy, if it’s an available option.

        My doctor explained it once that anxiety makes your body ready to run away from/fight a danger, so it makes physical changes to free up resources to react to a threat (increased heart rate, blood flow changes, etc.) and exercise can help relax that response.

        1. FD

          Ah, I see your point clarified–you’re not talking about whether it works so much as offering the advice. Yeah, I think it depends on the relationship with the person, honestly, as to whether it’s appropriate.

    3. Alison Read

      Whoa! I never suggested telling Amy: “Go to the gym, you’ll feel better!” Since Amy wants to accompany coworkers to their classes it would be natural to suggest she join them at Zumba… Tai Chi… etc., whatever seems appropriate. If there’s a local Y nearby even better. It seemed from the letter that coworkers were already spending hours sitting at Amy’s apt. No, coworkers are not responsible for each other but sometimes people do make sacrifices to help others, such as sitting for hours with them. I was only suggesting if coworkers were of the mindset to do something, then helping Amy get involved in activities after work is a great place to start.

      1. Jane

        I really agree with this suggestion. I don’t believe coworkers have any responsibility to support Amy in these ways after work, but if they want to do so, then helping her find alternative means to meet her need for accompaniment would be a more effective way to help than just resentfully driving and babysitting (and probably eventually ghosting).

        Maybe this wouldn’t help Amy, but maybe she’d be interested in doing a planned activity with coworkers. Maybe doing an activity together long enough could make the activity venue a safe place to go alone next time she’s left without accompaniment to travel home. This could be a gym, library, museum, YMCA, adult education class, whatever: something structured, with a set timeframe and nice clear institution boundaries but low stakes and expectations. This has the added bonus of potentially making Time With Amy something fun and enjoyable instead of the chore it is now.

        Ideally, this sort of suggestion would be coming from Amy (I’ve also been diagnosed with GAD, and a whole lot of the therapy put the onus on me to come up with and enact viable solutions instead of demanding unreasonable, abusive support from other people), to reframe her demands on coworkers to become something mutually enjoyable. But it may also be a kindness that could come from a supportive coworker/friend.

      2. Observer

        Natural? How so? That would mean people would actually need to enroll in exercise classes that they would be going to straight from work, that she might go to one some days. That’s NOT what I would consider a remotely “natural” course of action.

        1. Dot Warner

          The way I read it, it sounded like Alison Read was suggesting that the coworkers invite Amy to the gym if that’s what they were going to do anyway, or if it was something they’d been meaning to do but hadn’t gotten around to. So in that case, it would be natural.

        2. Jane

          It’s natural for some people. It’s convenient for some people. No need to take every suggestion as an imposition, nor react only as it applies to your particular situation.

          The idea for this genre of suggestion is that, if the people already driving and babysitting Amy feel powerless to abandon her but also hate the chore of caring for her, perhaps they also have options they can suggest that would make the whole situation easier for them, without entering into her mental healthcare.

    4. My dino is smarter than your dog

      I suffered from panic attacks for a little over a year. Multiple times a day. I remember very little from that year because it was a living nightmare from which there was no escape.

      I tried exercising. The increased heart rate and blood flow mimicked the start of a panic attack perfectly, and exercise became an anxiety trigger. I thought I was crazy for having this reaction, but my therapist assured me that it made perfect sense for me to react the way I did – the physical symptoms of exercise really do imitate those of a panic attack. I had to wait until I had treated my panic disorder using other methods before I could start exercising again.

      All this to say that exercise can, in fact, make anxiety symptoms worse for some people.

  16. animaniactoo

    It might help Amy to point her in the direction of some other solutions that allow her to help herself. Is there a coffee shop she can regularly haunt where her partner can pick her up from on his way home? Is there a library around? Some evening class or activity that she can involve herself in or volunteer for as a method of not being alone? Can she develop a couple of these different locations close to work and close to home so that she always has someplace to go not to be alone?

    I hesitate to say that this is an answer for her vs temporary management, and as such might be a drawback from gaining control over her anxiety. But it may be a stopgap that at least allows her to continue to work while she works on the rest. I don’t know and that would really be a question for a therapist to answer. But just looking at possibilities.

    1. Newby

      Yeah. A coworker may be willing to drop her off at a coffee shop or class that is near work since that is a much smaller time commitment than sitting with her for a few hours. I’m not saying that they should be obligated to drive her anywhere, but it might be a workable temporary solution.

    2. KellyK

      Yeah, those are potentially good ideas, especially as a short term thing while she starts therapy. But it would probably be overstepping for a coworker to suggest that out of the blue. *If* a coworker wanted to offer up suggestions and *if* she was interested in hearing them, that might be a good thing to suggest (so might exercise, getting a dog, or any number of things). But that’s personal enough that I fee like it’s getting out of “coworker” territory and into at least “work friend” territory, which might not be a relationship people want to have with her if she’s bugging them with travel requests.

      Also, people are really quick to jump in with suggestions, so it’s possible that everyone from her grandmother to her next-door neighbor is telling her to take up yoga, take herbal supplements, or get an emotional support iguana, and more suggestions aren’t going to be helpful or well-received.

      But, if a coworker wants to go there *and* she’s receptive, it’s a pretty decent short-term, stopgap solution.

  17. Collingwood21

    Poor Amy. I too suffer from anxiety, and what she is doing here is using safety behaviours as a coping strategy – something which helps in the immediate situation but prolongs the anxiety long-term. Letting go of safety behaviours and deliberately exposing yourself to your anxiety is scary (I know, still got a few myself) but perhaps she needs some support to do this, like still getting lifts home but not having someone stay with her at first, and when that feels less anxiety-provoking, moving to using other forms of transport. Perhaps her partner or friends could also try taking buses/trains/ubers with her on the weekend to help her work through her anxiety with these as well? I do hope she has a manager who is supportive.

    1. Biff

      It might be so that she needs to dial down her support, but her coworkers aren’t an appropriate source of support for safety behaviors.

  18. Biff

    Ye gawds. What is it that the current social climate is one of nannying and solving your problems by placing the burden on others? It seems like the last few weeks all I’ve run into are cases of misplaced responsibility like this. It’s kinda scary, to be honest. I see people who should know better, advising people poorly all the time.

    However, if Amy is very young to working, I can see how she might not really know that she is behaving inappropriately by asking for this favor. She might also have a therapist that is encouraging her to reach out to friends for help (which Amy is misconstruing as coworkers), or even an off-base therapist that’s told her to ‘ask people to stay with her when she panics. I can see where this is coming from, because years and years ago when I was 23, I similarly asked for help with a situation and while I doubt I was this out of bounds, I was still out of bounds.

    I wish that someone might have explained to me what was going on as apposed to shutting me out. And that’s what I’d suggest with Amy. Something like “We realize that you are experiencing anxiety and that it is a very difficult condition to manage, but regardless of what others have advised you, it’s not acceptable nor is it a long term solution to expect your coworkers to help you manage the condition by driving you home and staying with you. Furthermore, inviting yourself into their life is a surefire way to lose favor. You need to develop coping mechanisms that are appropriate for the workplace.” If at all possible, it would be kind if work would arrange for her to have a couple or three hours once a week to go to a therapy appointment.

    1. Katie the Fed

      ” What is it that the current social climate is one of nannying and solving your problems by placing the burden on others?”

      This is a mental illness, not a symptom of a social climate.

      1. Biff

        I guess I should say that the current social climate seems supportive of this mental illness, then. In the last year or so, I’ve noticed that a shocking number of the people I speak to (in depth conversation here) seem to think they are entitled to other people’s time, money or effort when solving their own problems or solving some problem they’ve identified. I’ve been pretty seriously nickel-ed and dime-ed too. It’s exhausting because it preys on a fairly natural desire to help and be helpful, but it becomes insidious fast.

        1. LBK

          I guess I should say that the current social climate seems supportive of this mental illness, then.

          …what’s wrong about that? I’d much prefer a climate where people feel comfortable being open about mental illness than the old world where people with mental illness just ended up in asylums, homeless or dead.

          1. Biff

            Society can be supportive of people with mental illnesses without coddling, or without directly supporting/encouraging the mental illness. What I’m saying is that I feel like, at least the section of society I interact with, has been asking me to take on their burdens instead of actually dealing with them.

            It feeds into an ‘external locus of control’ which is pretty toxic.

            1. LBK

              But leaning on others for support is usually a step along the way to getting treatment. Speaking from personal experience, getting into medical care for mental illness is not as simple as the flu – you don’t just say “Huh, I don’t feel so good, let me call up my doctor” and the next day you’ve got your meds and you’re off on the road to recovery. Not only because mental illness itself makes it harder to push yourself through the process of getting help, but because that process is often veeeeery long. When I finally made the decision to go into treatment, there was a month-long wait just for the intake interview, and then another 3-month wait after I was accepted into the program before there was actually a therapist available to take new patients. I was in therapy for 3 years, and that’s relatively short because my case wasn’t as severe – some (most?) people are in treatment their whole lives.

              I also don’t think providing support is equivalent with supporting or encouraging the mental illness itself – I didn’t start treatment until I had someone around who could help me manage the day-to-day stuff, because normally that consumed me so much that I didn’t have the energy or mental capacity to do anything else. When just accomplishing the basic tasks required in order to be a functioning person is exhausting, how do you expect to go through the lengthy process of finding a therapist?

              1. Leatherwings

                +100
                Being understanding and kind shouldn’t be conflated with coddling someone. The coworkers should be able to say no to Amy’s requests, that doesn’t mean they need to stop supporting her as a person in order to stop enabling her clinginess.

                1. Ccccccc...

                  Leatherwings and LBK, I just want to let you know how much I appreciate your comments, and the patience and empathy behind them. Some of the responses have been rather tone-deaf (or repeatedly misconstruing the issue), and it’s bothersome to see some of these attitudes repeatedly defended.

                  Thank you both!

              2. Biff

                Coworkers are not an appropriate source of support unless they volunteer to be exactly that.

                1. Leatherwings

                  Support doesn’t have to mean driving her home though. I think support can just mean being kind or acknowledging her issues when they have to say no to staying with her.
                  Support can just be as simple as saying “I’m sorry, you can’t come to my soulcycle class tonight. I know it’s hard for you to be alone, but that’s not going to work for me. I hope you have an okay night though.”

                  No, it’s not a coworkers job, they don’t HAVE to do this. But it’s kind and most people want to be kind to coworkers right? That doesn’t mean they have to be therapists. I think you’re conflating a lot of things here.

                2. LBK

                  I guess I don’t understand what you expect Amy to do in this situation. I agree that it shouldn’t be her coworkers’ responsibility in the long term to do this for her, but I also don’t know what else she could be doing. Even if she goes into therapy today, she’s probably going to continue to need rides from someone for months. It’s a crappy situation and I don’t really have an answer, but I know saying that society needs to stop coddling mental illness isn’t it.

                3. Green

                  Yes. You can be a decent human to your coworkers, but there really should be no expectation of additional support related to mental health issues.

                  I have been this support person for a colleague with no support network who suffered from extreme anxiety, hoarding, suicidal threats, and extreme depression–it is scary, overwhelming and exhausting and can be unhealthy for both parties. It is absolutely not something you can expect of someone based on the fact that you both go to the same place to earn a living.

                4. Biff

                  @LBK

                  Just because she needs a ride doesn’t mean that anyone is obligated to provide it to her.

                5. Leatherwings

                  I really don’t think anyone is saying that Amy’s coworkers are obligated to give her rides. In fact, I do think her coworkers need to nicely set boundaries and start telling her no.

                  I do think they have a human obligation to be kind and not have this attitude (which I sort of think you have Biff, though it might just be the tone of the internet) of dismissiveness and frustration with Amy. This “you need to figure it out and pull yourself up by your bootstraps and if you ask for too much I’m going to get indignant and tell you about yourself. I’m not coddling you by being compassionate” attitude is what people are pushing back on.

                6. Temperance

                  Amy could start driving herself, or have her husband pick her up. There are many options that don’t require her to lean on her coworkers inappropriately.

                7. LBK

                  @Leatherwings – Yes, that’s exactly what it is. It’s the attitude that’s bothering me more than the suggested actions, because plenty of other people are also saying to set boundaries and that it’s okay to say no, but in a more compassionate way. Empathy is not coddling.

                  @Temperance – I thought the letter pretty clearly outlined why those aren’t (always) viable options? Am I missing something?

                8. Temperance

                  @Leatherwings: I did see in the letter that her husband isn’t always available, and that she doesn’t like taking public transit, but nothing about driving. I think at this point, the personal stress and discomfort of public transit/driving needs to outweigh the rude repeated demands on her coworkers. She crossed the line by trying to invite herself to appointments/meetings etc.

                9. Leatherwings

                  @temperance
                  I think you’re responding to the wrong person here, but regardless it isn’t up to you what outweighs what. You and Amy’s coworkers don’t get to dictate what she does and she’s probably considered these options already.

                  It’s totally appropriate for Amy’s coworkers to set boundaries and say no. It’s not appropriate to say “My annoyance at you outweighs your anxiety about public transit.” That’s ridiculous. Let it be up to Amy to figure out what strategies she uses in place of her coworkers, condescendingly saying “Well maybe she just needs to figure it out and drive” isn’t particularly compassionate towards someone with severe anxiety.

                10. Biff

                  @LBK
                  I have to disagree. You are asking that everyone treat Amy with kindness, but she is not treating her coworkers kindly at all. She is asking for time and resources, as well as emotional investment. It is not kind at all to put someone on the the spot. It’s a known manipulation tactic.

                  @Leatherwings
                  The problem that I see is that no one should ever be in a place where they could even say “My annoyance at you outweighs your anxiety about public transit.” to a coworker. The anxiety should have never come to the office the way it has.

                11. Temperance

                  @Leatherwings – you’re absolutely right, I was meaning to reply to someone else.

                  I disagree with you. My right to swing my arms around stops before I can punch you in the face. Amy’s right to choose to avoid public transportation or driving ends where she demands rides and attention from coworkers. Her mental illness doesn’t give her a pass on inappropriate, rude behavior.

                  It’s up to her how she finds a way home, sure, but only so long as she’s not demanding that other people do it for her.

                12. Temperance

                  @Biff: I agree with all of your comments on this thread, especially the one about manipulation. I couldn’t identify what made me so shocked and disgusted with her behavior, but manipulation is exactly it.

                13. Biff

                  @Temperance

                  Thank you for saying so. I actually find it really hard to go against the grain here, even when I think it’s important.

                14. Leatherwings

                  @temperance
                  I think you’re really miscontruing what I’m saying here.

                  NOBODY is suggesting coworkers have to give her a ride home. Nobody. In fact, coworkers should be completely exempt from giving her rides and she needs to stop asking. Her mental illness doesn’t give her a pass on continually asking at the point that she’s been told it’s not appropriate (which hasn’t happened yet, by the way).

                  HOWEVER I’m seeing little to no compassion for what anxiety really does to people here. What I find it disturbing and insulting – is the constant suggestion and implication of “Suck it up, figure it out, she’s being intentionally manipulative”
                  That’s not what anxiety is like, that’s not a helpful attitude to have towards someone with anxiety and I find it obtuse to continually say she’s being inappropriate when everyone here agrees. /Everyone/ agrees she has to stop this behavior. You don’t need to continually imply she’s a bad or manipulative person for doing this. She’s a person who needs help and to get help she needs empathy. This kind of language is insulting.

                15. Green

                  LBK– But she actually DOES need to suck it up and figure it out for herself. She may need to rely further on friends and family members, who may not mind being called upon. She may need to take time off of work. She may need to enter treatment on an emergency basis or in-patient. She may need to hire someone to help care for her. But those solutions are not her coworkers’ responsibility to provide. She needs to figure those things out either on her own, with her physician, or with her support network (that doesn’t include colleagues).

                  Most people have not suggested that she’s being intentionally manipulative. But she is manipulating people (achieving her goals/needs while relying on inappropriate methods to get people to do things they do not want to do). She is probably a sick person and not a bad person, but empathy doesn’t require handing her solutions to her problems when you’re not in a position to provide them.

                16. LBK

                  I definitely have not suggested that her coworkers are responsible for getting her into treatment or otherwise participating in long-term solutions for her. I’m actually advocating the opposite, that it’s not their business to take it upon themselves to tell her how she should fix her problems.

                  Honestly, at this point it’s not even really about the coworkers, it’s just about the other commenters here that are discussing the problem with a serious lack of empathy. It feels like some people just want to give Amy the finger and tell her to grow up. If someone had done that to me when I was in the throes of depression it would’ve been one of the worst things that could’ve happened to me.

              3. Vroom Vroom

                Yes it is often a step to ask for help and support from others – but that should mean loved ones, not colleagues.

                I studied abroad in college and there was a girl on our trip who had some sort of severe social disorder – though we were never told what it was. This manifested physically with Trichotillomania, she hit her roommate (who was randomly assigned) and had to be moved, as well as verbally she was often very rude and abrasive during classes. The first few travel weekends she stayed on the grounds alone, and after that the program asked for volunteers to travel with her. The first group to volunteer came back and said it was awful because they were babysitting her the whole time. After that, no one else volunteered.

                Yes, the step is to lean on your loved ones for support – family and friends – but this girl’s family and friends sent her to a foreign country where she didn’t know anyone even in her program. I understand that it was maybe to get her to spread her wings, but it wasn’t any of her classmates’ responsibility to help her to do that, and to detract from our own experiences.

                1. Temperance

                  That’s really, really awful. If they were going to send someone with special needs to an intensive program like that, they should have a.) prepped you all ahead of time, b.) let her roommate know of potential issues and danger, and c.) not put you all on the spot to spend time socializing with someone who is dangerous, awkward, and unpleasant, knowing that she has those issues.

                2. Vroom Vroom

                  I agree. I had that mentality towards her pretty vocally – she’s not my problem, I feel for her but I’m not letting this affect my experience. Her ability to have An Experience does not trump mine. And a lot of people agreed with me, and a lot of other people thought I was pretty awful (though secretly agreed with me because no one other than that first group ever volunteered to take her with them on travel trips).

                3. A Bug!

                  Yes it is often a step to ask for help and support from others – but that should mean loved ones, not colleagues.

                  It’s not so much who provides the help and support, but that no matter who’s providing it, that it be willingly given. That people aren’t being pressured into providing help, that they can decline a request for help, that they have some meaningful involvement in setting the terms of any help they do give, and that they can withdraw their help if they realize they can’t or don’t want to do it anymore.

                4. Isabel C.

                  And even with family and friends, there’s a limit: I’ve seen enough friends of both genders with SOs who exploited them instead of getting or putting effort into treatment that…well, I’ve realized that “your girlfriend’s not your therapist” scans to Camptown Races.

            2. Marcela

              Oh, no. What you are saying is that if you were able to deal with whatever you needed to deal, then everybody needs to do the exact same thing, or they are being encouraged to have a mental illness. What an idea. My mom thinks the same way, that people is nowadays encouraged to get depression, for example. Conveniently she forgets my brother’s “discouraged” depression, when all my family tried to fix him just telling him he was lazy and needed to work harder in college or her uncle’s suicide more than 60 years ago, now largely explained by a undiagnosed depression who everyone in my family refused to acknowledge.

            3. J.B.

              Here’s the thing. If you spend your life bottling up mental health challenges then they grow and become a much bigger deal than if you seek treatment early on. Alcoholism and substance abuse aren’t exactly new but they are pretty common ways of self medicating. People coming out and saying I sought treatment (possibly including medication) may be doing so to lessen the stigma. People saying “fix my problems” probably don’t have great coping skills.

              Signed, someone who has plenty of competent family members with challenges and has paid many many $ out of pocket for a child’s treatments. In the hope that she can develop good coping strategies and be more functional in adulthood. It’s long and complicated and exhausting. If society actually did more to help kids like this we might have less issues in adulthood.

          2. Engineer Girl

            I think the problem is that people expect the support without the accountability. It’s reasonable to expect some form of support. AND it is reasonable to hold the other person accountable for their actions and seeking treatment. Too many times I’ve seen “I have illness X and you need to accept how I act”. Well, no I don’t have to accept how you act. I will sympathize with you but you need to accept that your illness is impacting others too. Many times forcing someone to be accountable is key to getting them to recognize that the problem is big enough where they need treatment.

            1. LBK

              Many times forcing someone to be accountable is key to getting them to recognize that the problem is big enough where they need treatment.

              I really don’t think that’s true, especially if you’re framing it as “holding them accountable” rather than wanting them to get help because you care about them. And I think all too often people who take this line of reasoning think that the mentally ill person needs to be the one to take the first step – that they have to get into therapy first, and then you’ll be willing to support them once they’ve “proven” that they’re helping themselves.

              1. Leatherwings

                Absolutely. I also think there’s a disconnect in this “accountability” narrative – it’s not a coworkers responsibility to provide support, but then they should take it upon themselves to hold a mentally ill person accountable for getting help? No.

                1. Myrin

                  I’m not sure I’m following – isn’t “holding the mentally ill person accountable” a thing that automatically happens the moment the coworkers stop providing support? Or am I misunderstanding?

                2. Leatherwings

                  No, I don’t think that’s what happens and I think that painting oneself as some sort of do-gooder by setting boundaries is… I don’t know… disingenuous maybe?
                  Don’t get me wrong, boundaries are so important here, but it’s not like that makes the person setting them some sort of hero for getting the person the help they need. It’s a tone thing. Does that make sense?

                  Like LBK says above, encouraging someone to get help because you care about them isn’t the same as saying “No I can’t drive you home.”

                  I guess I just object to that frame of mind – “holding someone accountable” implies a position of authority, moral or otherwise, over the person they’re holding accountable and I don’t like it.

                3. Myrin

                  Aah, it’s the use of “holding someone accountable”, now I get it! And yes, I agree with you that it implies a position of authority – thanks for coming back and explaining what you meant!

                4. Engineer Girl

                  I didn’t say accountable for getting help. I said accountable for their actions. If you hit me, I stay away. No, I won’t hang out with you.

                5. LBK

                  I didn’t say accountable for getting help.

                  Pretty sure you literally said that:

                  AND it is reasonable to hold the other person accountable for their actions and seeking treatment.

                  Am I misreading something here?

                6. Boss Cat Meme

                  Her co-workers, no, but her management, YES. If Amy’s medical condition required her to get a driver because she broke her leg in a Pokemon Go weekend and could not drive herself to work, then it would be appropriate for her manager to ask HER what arrangements she has made for her transportation and home care, because her employer doesn’t need to provide that for her, and neither do her co-workers. She would be “accountable” for keeping her appointments, taking her meds, getting to and from work. If she refused to do that, or refused to take medication for a contagious disease, for example, then it’s management’s job to step in and deal with that. It’s also management’s job to make sure the work environment is safe for all employees. She is already refusing to take a soft no for an answer. What are her co-workers going to do if she has a complete freak out meltdown after the entire office politely declines to give her a ride? Her management needs to explain to her that it is up to her to arrange medical treatment if she is unable to control herself at the office. Maybe it sounds cruel or harsh to YOU, Leatherwings, but Biff, or any of her co-workers should not be made to feel uncomfortable every day because the burden is on them to “help” her. It’s not. Her co-workers need to tell HER to get the help she needs, and she needs to take responsibility for herself.

                7. KellyK

                  Totally agree. The only way coworkers have any standing to “hold her accountable” is for her behavior at work. Whether she gets help or not is her concern; their concern is that she stop putting them on the spot by asking for rides. And that’s a perfectly valid and reasonable boundary to set. It doesn’t need the mantle of “it’s for her own good” tacked onto it.

                8. Leatherwings

                  @Boss Cat Meme

                  I don’t think you’re understanding what I’m saying at all. Of course I agree with all of this. I’m not saying that management talking to her is harsh or cruel or mean.

                  I think that people literally saying she needs to suck it up is mean. I think people implying she’s likely to have a full on meltdown is not cool (and unwarranted). I think that people saying that they feel entitled to offer fortune cookie advice like “go to the gym” is harsh. I think people calling her intentionally manipulative while ignoring dozens of comments from people with /actual severe anxiety/ about why that might be coming across is ridiculous. It’s the tone of some of the commenters, not the OP or Alison’s advice that I object to. C’mon, I’ve said it like 20 times now.

              2. Temperance

                She’s a coworker, though. They don’t owe her anything, especially not excessive support.

                I think it’s find to hold people accountable; her husband’s job is to support her, and maybe even friends/family, but not coworkers.

                1. Leatherwings

                  I’m not sure why you’re conflating “support” as in empathy and kindness with “excessive support”

                  Nobody is saying that she has to be provided with excessive support. LBK and I are both saying here that she should be treated with empathy. Getting frustrated and taking it upon yourself to hold her accountable is pretty gross, especially since you’re refusing to acknowledge that some basic form of support is okay. Note that that doesn’t mean complying with every demand.

                  Nobody owes it to her, nobody is arguing that Amy is owed anything, but it’s the compassionate thing to do.

                2. Temperance

                  I see it very, very differently than you and LBK. I think that her requests for her coworkers to manage her mental illness are amazingly inappropriate, and that she’s manipulating folks into doing what she wants because she knows that people feel bad for her situation. I don’t think that she’s being very kind or empathetic to the people she works with.

                  I think leaving her to figure out her own transportation is probably the kinder thing to do, but that would fall under the umbrella of holding her accountable.

                3. Leatherwings

                  Everyone agrees that it’s inappropriate, so we agree there. IDK I just really don’t think it’s kind (or likely correct) to ascribe this motive to her actions – maybe she’s doing it on purpose. Maybe she’s not? When I was having daily anxiety I leaned on my boyfriend heavily and was totally oversensitive to everything. It wasn’t fair to him, but it also wasn’t on purpose. He set some expectations with me and I listened.

                  I just don’t like this accusation that she’s being a bad person. There’s a possibility she’s manipulating the situation on purpose, but there’s an equal probability that she’s too lost in a haze of panic to really see how her actions are affecting others. If the latter is the case, do her coworkers really want to approach this situation from a frame of anger? Or might it be better to approach it with empathy either way?

                  And even if she’s doing it on purpose, I just don’t believe in an eye-for-an-eye. If she’s being unkind, does that justify being unkind back?

                4. Tea

                  @ Leatherwings

                  I think that, in an ideal world, empathy and compassion would be extended toward all people going through hard times, especially folks like Amy who are clearly suffering greatly.

                  But depending on how long Amy’s situation has been going on, how she behaves toward her coworkers when asking for these big favors, and how she acts after being turned down, I wouldn’t blame her coworkers at all if any reserves of empathy or kindness they might have for her are all tapped out, and all that remains is frustration and maybe anger. Additional compassion and kindness, in this case, may feel like one more favor for a person who has already asked for an endless number of them.

                  And I , personally, don’t like the emotional policing that sometimes happens someone acts inappropriately (whether out of malice or pain or illness or any reason at all), the one that goes: “That person can’t help it, so it’s up to you to be the bigger person, to suck it up, and not get angry, not think bad thoughts about them, not respond to [behavior] with anything other than calm and empathy and compassion.” There’s definitely no good to come out of the OP or their coworkers being jerks or trying to police Amy’s emotions, her illness, or try to dictate what she should do to manage her situation, but feelings are feelings, and “Why choose anger and frustration when you could choose kindness and compassion?” is not easy or necessarily right either.

                5. Leatherwings

                  @Tea
                  That’s a really good point. It’s not really clear to me though, that Amy has been told that she’s crossing boundaries. If she continues to do it after that happens it’s a different story. I agree that the emotional policing does happen and I think that phrasing helps me see where other people are coming from a little better than before.

                  I still think that some of the tone here towards Amy isn’t warranted given what we know about the situation, and I stand by the fact that calling Amy manipulative isn’t helpful or compassionate (and strongly disagree with the whole “hold her accountable” thing), but I do take your point that it’s possible I’m pushing too hard against feelings that are justified. It’s probably a bit uncomfortable for me because I’ve been Amy before and I don’t like to think that this many people resented me at the time. I’ll do a little more soul searching on this so I don’t veer into emotional policing. Thanks for your comment.

                6. LBK

                  I just don’t like this accusation that she’s being a bad person. There’s a possibility she’s manipulating the situation on purpose, but there’s an equal probability that she’s too lost in a haze of panic to really see how her actions are affecting others. If the latter is the case, do her coworkers really want to approach this situation from a frame of anger? Or might it be better to approach it with empathy either way?

                  Yes, all of this. I’m really grossed out by a lot of the implications of Biff and Temperance’s comments – you can’t view a mentally ill person’s actions through the same lens as a neurotypical person, and I’m seeing so much ascribed to her that could easily be explained by the very mental illness she needs help with. That is not by any means to say that a mentally ill person can’t also just be a bad person, that there aren’t people out there who are manipulative, or that mentally ill people get a pass on bad behavior, but also it’s not so clear cut when by definition, someone with mental illness doesn’t think, process or feel the same way you do.

                  I just see a huge lack of empathy here, and it’s frustrating because it’s so much more socially accepted to basically tell a mentally ill person “Well, I don’t think you’ve done enough to fix your own problems, so now it’s your own fault.” It just doesn’t work so simply.

                7. Tea

                  @ Leatherwings

                  I’m glad to contribute to this discussion! I think that you (and LBK) are providing a very valuable voice in this conversation and that it’s very important not to lose sight of the mentally ill person being a PERSON with pains and wants and real troubles, and not just a burden, not a pain in the ass, not just someone who’s playing on social norms to get their own way.

                  Everyone brings their own experiences to the table when it comes to really personal topics like this, and there’s so much room for differing and conflicting emotions to exist side by side (ie. Amy isn’t a Bad Person for being ill and having her coworkers being unhappy with her. Her coworkers are not Bad People for being unhappy and angry and feeling imposed on.) It’s much easier said than done to just say that people’s feelings should be their own and for everyone to treat each other with as much kindness as they can.

                8. Biff

                  @Leatherwings

                  You say ” It’s not really clear to me though, that Amy has been told that she’s crossing boundaries.”

                  Unless Amy is very young and this is her first rodeo (Which might be the case — we don’t know) no one should have to tell her that holding your coworkers hostage at the end of the day is inappropriate. It’s a given. I do understand where you are coming from — people can’t improve without feedback, but in general, there are also things that everyone over the age of about 25 should KNOW about life. I’m fairly certain this falls into that bucket.

                  I feel like, unfortunately, this argument is on note with saying “But of course someone needs to tell Susan she can’t ask her secretary to babysit her special-needs kids all summer” when Susan is a 36 yr old who manages a group of nine. And the reality is that no, Susan knows what she’s doing and simply needs to be fired for gross lack of boundaries. Again, unless Amy is quite young, it’s a given that you don’t make your coworkers responsible for your medical needs.

                9. Leatherwings

                  @Biff
                  Yeah, I hear you. But I think you’re not taking into account the haze that anxiety can put over you. Yeah, she might step back in a few years (or even when her anxiety isn’t at a peak like the end of the day when she’s facing being alone) and LOGICALLY know that she can’t ask this of people (hello my life), but anxiety messes with your brain. It doesn’t make it clear in the moment. Her brain might be telling her to do whatever is necessary to avoid facing the source of the anxiety and drowning out the common sense. That’s what it does to your brain. That’s what I mean by compassion. It doesn’t mean excusing it, it doesn’t mean holding her to different standards, it means understanding that those standards aren’t going to come as naturally to her as it does to you right now.

                  You can’t put yourself in her shoes if you’ve never been there. The mental illness makes it a scenario in which you might need to tell her.

                10. Biff

                  @ Leatherwings

                  I have anxiety. Bad anxiety. I cannot take medication. Even in the ‘haze’ I had a strong sense of right and wrong.

                11. Leatherwings

                  @Biff
                  How fortunate for you. When I was having such severe anxiety that I started nearly every morning with a panic attack, I was often so emotionally distressed that I was unaware of what I was asking of others. I just knew I was drowning, and it turns out I asked some of the wrong people for a life raft.

                  Also, let’s not pretend this is an issue of “right and wrong.” Please.
                  Murder is an issue of “right and wrong.” Someone with a severe mental issue inappropriately leaning on the wrong people for support is more complicated. It’s about inappropriate and appropriate, maybe. But painting it as right and wrong is EXACTLY the kind of (literal) black and white lack of empathy I’m referencing.

                  You’re not in her head, so please try being a little less indignant about her behavior and a little more understanding that she might be a person who’s drowning. Please. That doesn’t mean you (or anyone else) have to be the one to save her.

            2. Temperance

              Yep. I have seen this happen many times – she expects her coworkers to help her and support her in this major, pain-in-the-ass, life-interrupting way and thinks it’s reasonable because she has anxiety. It’s her illness, therefore she can’t help it, therefore they are all so mean for not giving in.

              1. Boss Cat Meme

                Yes, Amy is a person, and when people say that she needs to be ACCOUNTABLE for herself that doesn’t mean that anyone lacks empathy or wishes to treat her cruelly. I think you have got to move beyond that and look at this more objectively. Every single person here has said that they feel badly for Amy, AND others have added they also feel badly but that she needs to be accountable and RESPONSIBLE for herself. If she had any other permanent or temporary medical issue then they would also be ACCOUNTABLE for their own care as well. If I had a co-worker tell me they have some mental issue where they need someone to kiss them full on the mouth every day at noon, you can be sure I would tell them, with empathy at first, that they need to make their own arrangements for that kiss. Maybe you see yourself in Amy a little and think people are being cruel when they say Amy must be accountable for her own care, but you can’t get caught up on blaming people for not being as empathetic as you think they should. I think people have been very empathetic on this thread, really. It just shows you how difficult a situation like this, and why co-workers need to stay out of it. It IS Amy’s responsibility to get the care and treatment she needs.

                1. Leatherwings

                  I’m going to go ahead and assume you’re replying to me here. I said above I definitely see myself in Amy, and that certainly made me less objective than I should be. I concede 100% that’s the case. I don’t think that undermines every single argument I’m making, and I agree that I was likely pushing out other people’s valid feelings of resentment.

                  However, I am also not sure you’re reading my arguments about being responsible and accountable the way that I mean them. Of course she’s accountable and responsible for her own care. I just think that people here suggesting that they “hold her accountable” to seeking treatment is kind of gross – it confers a power dynamic that I’m not comfortable with is all. If people aren’t willing to give her rides and act as her therapist because that’s not a coworkers role (which is totally correct and fine), they don’t get to turn around and decide that they’re going to be the ones to hold her accountable either. Just like the coping mechanisms, that’s up to Amy, her doctor, and possibly her family/close friends.

                  I also think that people need to stop calling Amy manipulative and unkind and implying she’s doing this on purpose – that’s the kind of compassion and empathy I’m talking about, not bending to her every whim and continuing to give her rides. Please remember, people haven’t told her outright that she shouldn’t be asking for rides yet! That means it’s not yet to the point where she’s ignoring everyone’s wishes. The vitriol about behavior she hasn’t committed is unnecessary.

                  Also, surely you’re not comparing what Amy is doing (while inappropriate) to something that’s actual sexual assault right? That metaphor just doesn’t hold up to me.

                2. Temperance

                  Oh Leatherwings – I totally get where you’re coming from here. I absolutely agree that she doesn’t owe it to her coworkers to get treatment for her illness to make them more comfortable, or for any reason. Just to stop inappropriately askign them to do things.

                  I was under the impression that she had been repeatedly told no and was given a reason (huge mistake!), and then fought the reason by trying to tag along to plans.

              2. Ccccccc...

                >> It’s her illness, therefore she can’t help it, therefore they are all so mean for not giving in.
                There’s no evidence from the letter that this is how she frames things at all. You can be crippled by anxiety and depression and need support and realise full well how much you’re asking (yet not know how to cope differently at that moment).

                You mentioned your parent’s manipulative behaviours, which may be colouring your interpretation here. Not the same situation at all.

      2. GigglyPuff

        +1000

        Amy probably does know better, the point is, her anxiety is possibly overriding her common sense, it’s so crippling.
        There’s a difference between someone’s regular personality vs. who they become when a mental illness inhibits them

        1. Not Me

          Exactly. I’m a person who suffers from general anxiety. I’m currently on FMLA leave for severe, work-related anxiety. I’ve been off for a few weeks, and I’m just now starting to feel like myself. The constant crying, nausea, insomnia, and irritability are not part of my normal personality, and yet that was what my life had become. I was unable to focus or think clearly or objectively. I could be wrong, but I would be surprised if Amy is consciously trying to manipulate people. It sounds to me like she is in a desperate state and is not able to think clearly about how her requests are inconveniencing others. I’m glad that she has started therapy, and I’m glad that her co-workers are wanting to deal with this sensitively and compassionately.

    2. fposte

      I don’t think this is a social climate thing so much as a drowning-person-grabbing-at-what-looks-like-a-life-preserver thing. The problem is that the life preserver just postpones what Amy really needs, which is is to learn to swim.

    3. Kelly L.

      If it was really the prevailing “current social climate,” we wouldn’t be getting letters asking how to stop it, because everybody would think it was fine.

      1. KellyK

        Totally agree. I also seriously doubt we’d be seeing as much negativity toward Amy if the post had been “My coworker with migraines keeps asking for rides home.”

    4. Alton

      I don’t think it’s an age thing. Mental illness can warp your awareness and impede your self-control. When I was going through a really bad patch of anxiety, I could see that I was wearing on my loved ones’ patience and that I was obsessing over my fears too much, but I couldn’t stop.

      Amy might know that she’s imposing and feel ashamed of it, but might feel so helpless and desperate that she can’t break out of that pattern.

      1. Angela

        Yes, thank you for saying this. I think desperation is what drives people suffering with mental illnesses to push inappropriate boundaries and allow themselves to become burdens. Not because they want freedom from accountability. They are not operating with the same facilities as a mentally healthy person.

        1. Boss Cat Meme

          Which drives the point even further home that a co-worker who is suffering from mental issues must make arrangement for treatment, and must be held accountable to follow up with that care.

          1. Leatherwings

            Not by her coworkers though, right?

            Her coworkers who don’t want to be involved in her anxiety similarly shouldn’t be involved in holding her accountable or making sure she makes arrangements for treatment. Her manager has the standing to do that. Her boyfriend does too. The people she’s asking for rides? Not so much.

            1. Temperance

              This is absolutely fair. She doesn’t owe it to them to get treatment, she just needs to stop pressuring them to handle her symptoms.

              1. Leatherwings

                Agreed. And I think her manager needs to directly say that to her as kindly as possible.

  19. Katie F

    This is rough. There’s no bright-and-shiny resolution possible here, I don’t think. Allison’s advice is good, but you need to be ready for at least some conflict/pushback, even if it’s only our own tendencies to feel guilty when we can’t/won’t help someone, even if they’ve long-since crossed over a line of appropriate behavior. Telling her “no” is totally okay to do.

    Poor Amy, too – this sounds like progressively escalating anxiety that is shutting her in more and more and i’m worried about her long-term emotional health.

  20. taylor swift

    I know anxiety manifests itself in different ways but I would find it so much harder to ask to accompany a coworker to their after-work activities.

    Anyways, I’ve been dealing with some of the same things, where I’ve been driving a coworker who doesn’t drive due to anxiety for the last 8-9 months to and from work…though I’ve never had to hang out with her until she was comfortable. Anyways, I’m finally saying no – and I feel guilty about it because obviously this woman’s life is difficult – however, it’s better for my mental health to not have to do it. And as professional adults, we have the right to say no.

    I’m also someone who’s lower-ranking in the office, so I felt more obligated to do it – so I would make sure to let junior level employees know that they can say no and there won’t be consequences (other than Amy being upset, I guess). Is there any way to reimburse the unpaid intern for her gas for that instance? I imagine she felt she couldn’t say no and this was a function of her job – and if it was super out of her way, and she’s not getting paid for the internship, that might be a nice thing to do (for just this instance … not for any times in the future since ideally she’ll know that she doesn’t have to do it.)

    1. fposte

      I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought of your situation here. I’m glad that you’re saying no! Good for you.

    2. Biff

      I was hoping you’d update us on this. I stalked last week’s open thread to see if you’d successfully said no.

      Good for you!

      1. taylor swift

        I was out of town this weekend, so I didn’t get a chance to update! Finally just told my boss I can’t do it anymore and that I didn’t necessarily want more burden to be put on others in the office but that I just couldn’t do it. She left my office without saying anything and didn’t come back for like half an hour and then completely changed the subject – so I wasn’t sure what was going on…. then I went out of town for a few days. When I came back, she told me that other people are taking more days so I’m officially off the rotation. I still feel like the whole thing is ridiculous, but it’s no longer my problem so if others want to drive her then fine by me.

        (Sorry for hijacking this post but it’s kind of on topic…)

        1. Observer

          Totally on topic – a perfect example of why the OP needs to step up at this point.

          And, I’m so glad that you’ve pushed back and had some success.

    3. Muriel Heslop

      I thought about you too, TS! Glad you are setting some healthy boundaries. Good for you!

    4. Temperance

      Good for you. Don’t feel guilty; it’s not your fault that your coworker won’t or can’t drive, and getting that peaceful time during your commute and not having to set your schedule on someone else’s time is priceless.

  21. anonymous cat

    Doesn’t ADA allow for an employer to provide accommodations – even if an employee doesn’t request them – as long as they are perceived to need them? Just thinking that maybe HR could use it to mandate a regular work-from-home schedule for Amy, since the OP implies that was helpful for her in the past.

    I sincerely hope Amy is able to seek medical treatment for her condition, that sounds like a very difficult way to live.

    1. fposte

      Well, an employer can allow anybody to work at home they want any time, ADA or no. Absent a clear knowledge of an ADA-relevant condition, either because it’s obvious (like a missing limb) or because the employee has told them, it’s not an ADA thing.

    2. Katie the Fed

      No – I think you’re conflating equal employment opportunity protections (where you couldn’t discriminate against someone perceived to have a disability, even if they don’t tell you) with ADA reasonable accomodation provisions. You don’t have to have a dialogue about accommodations with someone who hasn’t requested them.

    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      It sounds like she did get special permission to work from home for a while but it was revoked (presumably because it wasn’t working out).

    4. virago

      I can’t speak to your question about ADA accommodations, but the OP has shared that Amy has recently started therapy.

  22. Christine

    OP – please let us know what happens. I feel sorry for Amy, but I do not believe that a employee’s issues should affect co-workers outside of work. Their is also a liability issue when asking interns or junior employees to drive her home & stay with her (not saying she is asking of junior employees). If there is an accident while drive her home the company can be found liable if an intern is driving and/or a junior employee.

    I have a co-worker that habitually has accidents (has an inner balance issue) and she expects everyone to drive her home, etc., because she’s too tight to make arrangements with the bus to drop her off. She’ll have it take her to work if she cannot bum a ride. A few of my coworkers told her point blank they didn’t want the liability and risk of her falling in and our of their car when it got to be a bit too much.

  23. Jessica

    This is all kinds of wrong. it’s one thing to be accommodating from 9 – 5 for Amy, but this is spilling into people’s personal and private lives. I find it hard to sympathize with Amy as I feel she should be at this point, making other strides in other directions to manage her anxiety and seek help in other forms, not from other colleagues who have their own personal lives and do not owe her anything after 5pm. Even before speaking to Amy’s manager (which needs to be done ASAP), I think if you are approached by her next time for a ride, it’s perfectly acceptable to say, “i’m sorry Amy, but I wish to go home to my family this evening who also needs me. While I wish I could be of more help, that’s the reality and you may need to start considering alternative arrangements to get home moving forward outside your co-workers”. I almost think Amy should be getting some sort of disability compensation and leaving the office until she can come back if she can better manage her anxiety. It’s clearly not good for her health, and is creating huge issues for other employees which is completely unnecessary.

  24. Vroom Vroom

    While I feel really badly for Amy – I also have anxiety but I am in therapy and managing it and I do not think it overflows into work life to a noticeable extent – I am just going to leave this here from Apollo Warbucks on the earlier post today, because it’s SO perfect.

    “Apollo Warbucks
    July 20, 2016 at 8:29 am
    If you step on my foot, you need to get off my foot.
    If you step on my foot without meaning to, you need to get off my foot.
    If you step on my foot without realizing it, you need to get off my foot.
    If everyone in your culture steps on feet, your culture is horrible, and you need to get off my foot.
    If you have foot-stepping disease, and it makes you unaware you’re stepping on feet, you need to get off my foot. If an event has rules designed to keep people from stepping on feet, you need to follow them. If you think that even with the rules, you won’t be able to avoid stepping on people’s feet, absent yourself from the event until you work something out.
    If you’re a serial foot-stepper, and you feel you’re entitled to step on people’s feet because you’re just that awesome and they’re not really people anyway, you’re a bad person and you don’t get to use any of those excuses, limited as they are. And moreover, you need to get off my foot.”

      1. J.B.

        I agree with this sentiment. However in your comment with the many replies you got into “kids these days” territories, which some of us are pretty sensitive to. While it is not the coworkers job to provide support, with very little societal support (in the US) I sympathize with the person grasping at what is there. I think that stopping it is necessary but appreciate that the OP wants to be kind.

          1. Leatherwings

            Listen, people have fought long and hard to no longer have mental illness be stigmatized. Saying things like “the social climate is too accepting of mental illness” is a huge step backwards. Does that mean people have to let Amy come to their latin class? Of course not!

            But suggesting that the climate needs to be colder to Amy to somehow force her to take action on the mental illness is a huge step backwards. Be compassionate, set boundaries, and acknowledge that there’s no one-size fits all approach to mental illness.

            1. LBK

              Agreed. I would much, much rather that we were overly accommodating of mental illness as a society than under accommodating, because the former has more of a chance of leading to eventual treatment, while the latter has more of a chance of leading to death. The idea that we as a culture need to scale back how much we help people with mental illness (in whatever capacity that entails) is really alarming to me.

              1. Leatherwings

                I’m pretty sure I’m channeling you, I completely agree. And the idea that this somehow means that coworkers need to drop everything and become Amy’s nightly ride and proto-therapist. There’s a middle ground here that people of course don’t HAVE to take, but it would be compassionate and helpful to take.

                This isn’t a black and white issue and I don’t totally understand why people think there needs to be black and white treatment of Amy.

                1. GigglyPuff

                  I love you both right now. I keep wanting to reply to certain people but I’m horribly inarticulate, and both of you are doing a great job of responding.

    1. Adam

      I’m going to save this because it is right on.

      I believe in having compassion for Amy and those in similar situations. But there have to be limits for your own personal well-being.

  25. Rusty Shackelford

    You know, Amy is bleeding, and she’s asking you for a daily blood donation. And when someone is bleeding, you don’t do that. You put pressure on the injury and you get them to a hospital. So don’t feel bad about refusing to give her a little bit of blood every day, because you just might be encouraging her to go get that damn wound stitched up.

    1. Vroom Vroom

      My brother also has had issues with a severe mental illness for most of his life (I have mild issues with fluctuating anxiety at times, but his issues are much bigger and life-impacting than mine).

      My parents for YEARS bailed him out, paid his rent, gave him allowance etc. Much longer than they did for any of their other children – well into his late twenties. The rest of us pushed them to stop “helping” so much because it wasn’t encouraging him to work to fix the problems, just encouraging him to know that they’d swoop in.

      Finally one day they did. 5 years ago our dad gave him a wholly commission based, you eat what you kill sales job at the dealership he owns, and said he wouldn’t give him any more money, and if he failed at the job he’d be fired. He’s been fired from every other job he’s ever had due to lying and not showing up. Apparently one time about a month in he lied and said he’d do something for my dad, and when my dad followed up he said he’d done it. My dad actually checked and it hadn’t been done, and put him on a one month probation – he couldn’t take any sales but still had to appear every day.

      That hurt my brother so much – to not have any income and have to pinch and squeeze to get by – that first he bellyached for his allowance back but they didn’t cave. After that, apparently he’s been a model employee. Not only does he do what he says, but he’s one of the top performing salesmen at the store now. He’s actually realized that he LIKES making money. He does still have the occasional day or two every once in a while that he calls in ‘sick’ because he’s having a down-swing and my dad is obviously much more understanding of it than a boss who doesn’t love you to pieces would be, but all in all it’s really worked out for him and he’s finally realized that you make your own luck.

      1. Vroom Vroom

        FYI this is also coupled with now he’s also sought treatment and is seeing a therapist as a result of ‘getting his life together.’ He always kind of wallowed in his own pity party because he knew our parents would bail him out. Now that he knows they won’t – and that he still has to show up at work regularly to be able to make the money he needs/wants, he’s incentivized to get help so that he’s better able to function in the professional world. This has also helped him function better in the personal world as well and he finally has a stable, healthy relationship with someone, as well as a healthier relationship with his parents and siblings.

      2. Manders

        Yes, this is something that’s hard but necessary with some mental illnesses: certain types of anxiety disorders can cause you to settle into a status quo that’s not actually comfortable for anyone, but it feels less scary than putting in the work to get to a better place. And sometimes the only way to get out of that status quo where you’re relying on other people is for those other people to start choosing what they can and can’t offer and sticking to it.

        It’s also why I think FMLA might not be a good idea for Amy, because having a routine and a steady income and health insurance can actually be a better in the long term than being alone at home all day and broke and unable to afford treatment.

        That period of adjustment is going to be stressful and difficult for everyone, though. OP should definitely keep her manager in the loop, because if Amy is already this far outside of work-appropriate behavior she may get worse before she gets better.

        (I totally saw my cousins go through the same thing, btw. They basically squatted in my dead grandmother’s house for half a year, preventing the estate from selling it and racking up tax and utility bills, until their mom finally forced them to move out. I’m sure it was a scary adjustment for them but the solution was not to have them live in a dead woman’s house, creating yet another headache for our recently bereaved family, forever.)

        1. fposte

          I do think there are situations where FMLA can be helpful for anxiety–where there’s been a situational response involved or there’s a medication adjustment happening. But I also think you’re right that people generally fare better staying in a social and productive routine than dropping out of it. It reminds me of the data about shell-shock in WWI (and I think II)–that soldiers who stayed with their unit or went back quickly fared better, and not because treatment was effectively stratified for severity, because it wasn’t.

          1. Manders

            That’s really interesting! I have a hunch just from watching my own friends and family (and myself when I’m out of work) that some mental illnesses really are more manageable with a routine that involves earning money or just generally feeling productive and dependable, but I didn’t know it was being studied.

            (I also suspect that some of my friends who burned out in grad school would have done better mental health-wise if there were a clear and logical connection between routine, productivity, and paychecks. But I’m wandering pretty far off topic now.)

  26. Roxanne

    It looks like to me that her partner is also enabling her to use her co-workers to cope. Why is he not part of her coping strategies? Is she far from other family in that town she could rely on instead?

    1. Merida May

      I saw that as well. On the days when her partner can’t bring her home she’s driven to work and has to… wing it I guess?

      1. Roxanne

        Then I thought about it some more: what if she’s really close to a tipping point towards a major crisis? Such as, she had friends and family she used to rely on but instead of building a reliable support network while working with a therapist, she (for whatever reason) instead put off getting badly needed therapy and she pushed the boundaries and good will from family and friends outside of work and has essentially pushed everyone away due to her not finding better coping mechanisms (“she’s so needy!”) and her last resort is her co-workers.

        This is a tragedy waiting to happen.

        1. fposte

          Or what if she’s getting better? She’s started therapy, her co-workers are figuring out ways to limit their enabling, she’s got a partner willing to do extensive support–I don’t think this reads as a likely impending catastrophe.

    2. Elsajeni

      It sounds like he’s very much part of her coping strategies — the problem only comes up on days when he can’t drive her home or be there when she gets home. And he can’t, and shouldn’t try to, be her sole source of support any more than her coworkers can, honestly. The problem here is not at all “Amy’s partner isn’t doing enough to help her cope”; it’s how Amy is reacting to the fact that her partner isn’t always there to help her cope.

  27. FD

    Ugh, this sucks for everyone.

    I genuinely feel for Amy. I’ve had anxiety my whole life, and until the last few years, I’d get panic attacks regularly. There were a few years in there too where they got really really bad, to the point where there were days where I couldn’t drive myself safely at times.

    That being said…

    This is a sucky situation all around. But the thing of it is, in my experience, a lot of her behavior is almost certainly making it worse for her long term. When your brain is in a state of anxiety, it searches for a thing that makes you feel better and clings to it hard, probably because the brain perceives it as a thing that makes the threat less (the fact there isn’t actually a threat is irrelevant). If the thing your brain fixes on is something that isn’t sustainable or available long-term, that can actually increase the anxiety, because first you get anxious, and then you get anxious because your preferred solutions aren’t available.

    That’s not to say a support system isn’t helpful! For example, some of the different tools in my personal toolkit are meditation, medication, controlled breathing in the moment, exercise, and some other mental strategies. In addition that, I have a few people who I know and I might text to say something like “Holy crap, I’m really nervous about [presenting the new chocolate teapot design] / [attending the conference on underwater basket weaving].” They might text back a bit of encouragement and remind me I’ll be fine. The same goes in reverse, since most of the people I’ve got in that specific support network have similar issues.

    None of that is helpful to the LW, however, because unless she and Amy are closer than the letter implies, she probably isn’t in a good place to make these suggestions.

    If Amy has asked you before, it might be a kindness to take her aside privately and tell her that you won’t be able to keep doing that any more. If the conversation goes that way naturally, you might be able to gently mention that it seems like something that isn’t sustainable for other people either (but whether you can make that segue depends on your relationship with her, IMO).

    I do think talking to her manager is a good plan. If she needs a specific accommodation, HR can talk to her, but right now, this is affecting others’ work, and others’ lives outside of work, and does need to be addressed.

  28. Merida May

    +1 to looping in Amy’s manager. It may be common knowledge around the office that this is ‘a thing’ but her manager might not know how far it’s gone, or that people are actually super uncomfortable with these requests. I may be off on this, but I suspect that the ride soliciting may only affect a subset of the office that Amy feels like she’ll get favorable results from. Her manager may not be a part of that group.

  29. Chriama

    As someone outside the situation I find myself feeling more po’d at Amy than sympathetic or sorry for her. It’s such an inappropriate pushing of boundaries. I don’t want to be responsible for your emotional well-being and I don’t want to feel like a jerk for saying no to someone in distress. So my primary emotion is resentment and anger for being put in such a situation in the first place. I did wonder if my bias is due to the fact that this is a mental illness issue but I don’t think it is. For example, if I had a paraplegic coworker who was always asking for a ride home or to the handicap bus pickup location, I would resent it after the first couple times, but I do think I would find it way harder to say no because they’re physically unable to do something whereas this coworker’s block is psychological.

    1. Temperance

      My .02: I would feel less sympathy for someone dealing with a mental health issue, but I’d similarly say no to the person with a physical disability. I grew up with a mentally ill parent, though, so dealing with people with mental illness stresses me out and makes me incredibly uncomfortable. It brings back all those feelings of being a helpless, humiliated child while my mother had loud, humiliating public meltdowns.

      My husband has an anxiety disorder, and he doesn’t act this way or in a way that is stressful to me.

    2. Biff

      I’m also more towards Po’d than sympathetic. I have anxiety, bad anxiety even, and I find her just inappropriate.

    3. Alix

      Yeah, this is where I’m at, too. Part of it is that yes, this is an emotional manipulation/abuse tactic – and I’ve been exposed to it as such, so my knee-jerk reaction to Amy is OH HELL NO. I refuse to fall for that bullshit again. And I get that yeah, she probably doesn’t meant to be manipulative, but she still is, and she’s unfairly burdening her coworkers with problems she really needs to figure out how to handle on her own.

      I don’t have to feel sympathy for a boundary violator and emotional manipulator just because she’s mentally ill.

      1. Isabel C.

        Agreed, for similar reasons.

        As someone with a similar mental illness, I look at it as *an illness*. If I have, say, norovirus, then I can’t help the results. It’s reasonable for me to take time off work, rest, drink Gatorade, etc–but it’s on me to do those things, to stay close to a bathroom, et cetera. If I don’t know what’s going on until I throw up in the backseat of somebody’s car (alas, true story, bad oysters) that’s not my fault *the first time*, but I should apologize, offer to pay the cleaning bills, and make every effort to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I definitely don’t get to ask acquaintances to come hold my hair back for me. If it’s a chronic illness, like diabetes, it’s *on me* to monitor my blood sugar, give myself injections, etc.

        If Amy had done this once or twice, I’d be sympathetic: sure, I’ve been there, it can be hard to figure out coping mechanisms. But it sounds like it’s been an escalating pattern for months, so…no. Not that she’s a bad person, but I’d have no patience with this at this point, and she definitely owes some serious apologies/cookies/sincere promises not to pull this again.

  30. Clever Name

    And here I was feeling sorry for myself because I share an office with a depression/anxiety suffering external-processor and chronic over-sharer. Now when she sighs constantly or asks not-so-rhetorical questions I’ll be grateful she’s not asking me to take her home and hang out at her place.

    I agree with Alison’s advice. The only thing you can do here is practice saying no nicely and maybe talk to her manager. You aren’t the one creating awkwardness by saying no. She’s the one creating awkwardness by way overstepping coworker boundaries.

    1. afiendishthingy

      oh my god, do we work in the same place? She literally said to me once “I’ve just always needed to talk about my anxiety out loud. Some of my friends just don’t get it, but I feel like here people accept that.” We’re friends, and I did say “yeah I NOTICED” when she said she needed to process out loud, but I didn’t add “and it can be super irritating.” We’re a close-knit group, and a lot of us, myself included, have anxiety issues and other stuff going on. But I find myself avoiding her when she’s super stressed – it’s just not great for my own anxixety to be around someone asking (shouting) those “not-so-rhetorical” questions like “Oh my GOD, WHY can I not get this file to open??” or “Am I a horrible person for canceling this meeting??”

      1. Clever Name

        Once she sort of called me out for not responding to her not-so-rhetorical question, and I said, “well, gee, that question sounded pretty rhetorical to me, and I didn’t think it required a response” :/

  31. Allison

    It’s really not appropriate for Amy to expect her coworkers to take care of her like that. Asking for the occasional ride from someone who lives near her might be okay, and establishing a regular ride with someone might be okay as well, but that could place a burden on that person if they have to stay late for her, or if they feel pressure to leave early to get her home by a certain time.

    Amy reminds me of someone in my life, not really sure she’s a friend as much as someone I just . . . know. I mentioned her in this morning’s thread, the one who complains when no one is able to hang out. She also operates under the assumption that if she needs something, the people around her are obligated to give it to her. If she needs money for rent, fork it over or you’re a bad person! And don’t pretend you don’t have any to spare, she saw you went to a bar last week, you have money! If she needs a couch to sleep on indefinitely, one of you had better be able to put her up, and the person who helps her is the ~bestest ever~ but everyone who couldn’t take her in is basically a monster. Amy may have a similar view, that if she needs someone to take care of her after work, one of her coworkers needs to step up and be a Good Person, or everyone is bad.

  32. I'm Not Phyllis

    I feel truly awful for what Amy is going through. What a difficult place she must be in. That said, she needs bigger help then a drive home can give her. You should absolutely loop her manager in. I’m not clear whether you help manage the interns, so it may not be on you, but whoever manages them will have to empower them to say no. Asking for a ride home is one thing (and I’d argue that even this crosses a line when it’s all the time) but not accepting a ‘no’ response (in the form of ‘I have other plans’) and asking people to stay with you is outside the realm of what is acceptable in a co-worker relationship. Her manager is the best place to start, and if they feel they need HR involvement they can ask for it when/if the time comes. But you do have the right to say a firm no, as do your coworkers.

  33. Temperance

    I probably have the minority opinion on this, but I feel strongly that my time outside of work is *my time*, and I would be annoyed and offended that a coworker was pushing me so hard to give her my time and attention. It was a very radical shift for me to realize that I’m only responsible for myself now, and that I am not beholden to anyone … my time is mine to give as I see fit. (I obviously have some responsibility to Booth, but you get the idea.)

    I would have told her no the first time, unless I really liked her and was not going to be put out by driving. I absolutely would have refused to sit with her while she works out her anxiety. Then again, I grew up with a very ill parent who would have public meltdowns regularly and was mood swingy and unstable in private, so my tolerance for dealing with mental illness is almost non-existent. It brings back the feelings of being a helpless, humiliated child why my mother screamed in the middle of Wal-mart about crowds. (I had to take a break from seeing a friend who fled a crowded brunch restaurant as a host was trying to see us because it upset me so much.)

    1. Leatherwings

      Hey, I totally get that. Your experiences with mental illness make it difficult for you to deal with it. That’s completely valid.

      However, I think you need to be careful in putting that experience on Amy. If Amy is your coworker, you shouldn’t have to deal with her anxiety, that would be completely unfair (nor should anyone). The best thing you can do is say no, and make sure she doesn’t continually ask you (by approaching her manager). OP hasn’t done that yet, so I do think it’s unfair to get sort of existentially angry and annoyed at Amy here.

      She’s dealing with something that probably feels completely unmanageable and hopeless. She likely can’t see past the anxiety to understand the burden she’s putting on others. Once she’s made aware of that, she needs to stop. However, until that happens I think you need to work to be less pissed off at her.

      1. Temperance

        It’s a pretty fair boundary that I have set for myself. If someone is so ill that they can’t keep it together, it’s going to trigger something in me that I dislike to deal with them.

        I honestly think that it’s fine to be angry and annoyed if she asks more than once. She’s seeking out low-ranking coworkers, likely because she knows that they feel bad saying no to her.

        Amy should probably consider taking FMLA if she’s this ill and unable to manage her symptoms. I’m thankful that she’s not my coworker (I would have shut her down the first time, and if she did it again, would do same, and would have spoken to my manager and hers by now), but I think it’s a lot to ask to accommodate her.

        1. Leatherwings

          We’re saying the same here. Yes, that’s a totally fair boundary. Yes, once you’ve shut her down, it’s fine to be annoyed if she does it again. Yes, you should go to her manager and make sure she doesn’t ask lower level people.

          But none of this means anyone gets to treat her badly or offer armchair diagnoses about what’s going to fix her mental illness best, or tell her what to do period. Including telling her to take FMLA. At the point she stops asking people for rides and company inappropriately, it’s up to her (and possibly her manager) how to best manage her anxiety. The best thing you can do if you don’t care to sympathize with her is leave it alone.

          1. Green

            I don’t think people are offering armchair diagnoses about what’s going to fix her mental illness best. I think that in trying to be compassionate, people are attempting to offer creative solutions that may fulfill her needs as we know them while imposing less on other people. That may not be appreciated by either Amy or by you (or it is entirely possible that it may be appreciated by Amy but not by you), but it’s coming from a spirit of people trying to be helpful while enforcing appropriate boundaries, not treating her badly.

  34. SophieChotek

    I don’t know where Amy is or where business is — and it sounds like Amy really wants to be with someone who knows her, versus random stranger — but just throwing this out there — would something like a coffee shop or library be a place she could go until her boyfriend could get her? Maybe not…

    1. Becca

      I definitely think this is a great idea, if OP feels comfortable asking Amy if she wants advice/ideas/etc… Other ideas:
      – sign up to take classes in things she’s interested in— both distracting and with other people
      – certain game stores often have people there in the afternoon/evening! My husband plays Warhammer 40K, and people are often at the game store playing that or other tabletop games during the evenings and weekends.

      Good luck, OP. I hope Amy is able to find some relief from her situation soon, and that you and your coworkers are no longer asked about it.

  35. Boss Cat Meme

    Amy’s medical issue should be treated as you would with any other employee’s medical issues. For example, a 40-something single man at my office had a stroke at home, and he lives alone. He was in the hospital for a week, had home therapy and so on for about 6 weeks, then was able to return to work and resume his job, which was waiting for him. However, he was restricted from driving at night for 6 months, which was a problem in the winter. We have a pretty close office, so the manger asked if anyone would be willing to drive “Steve” home in the evenings, as in a car pool situation. But Steve lives quite a ways out of town, and no one lives anywhere near him, plus what about his car? Public transportation in our city is not great either, and just wouldn’t work for Steve. Management did what it could in allowing Steve to come in early morning hours, and do some work from home, but ultimately it was Steve’s responsibility to arrange transportation to work if he wanted to work full time. Luckily, Steve’s sister and mother began to drive him, and he could also get insurance to cover some of the cost of a driving service available to people with medical issues like that. If Steve or anyone else had a broken leg in a ski holiday and couldn’t drive, well, they’d have to make arrangements on their own too.

    I feel bad for Amy, but her medical issue has now made it clear that she needs to arrange services to help her function on a daily basis, just as she might if she needed a home nurse or a driver or a physical therapist. Hopefully her therapist is helping her mange to the point where she can be at home alone. Maybe she needs a support group that can meet after work (and provide resources) or can go to the public library in the evenings or something to ease her transition. But a co-worker needing hand-holding and hugs after work for a few hours WILL be an HR issue if it continues. Imagine if Any were a man asking interns to stay with him so he won’t be alone, and not taking soft nos for an answer. Her behavior is making her co-workers uncomfortable already, and it’s now time for management to step in and ask her what kind of permanent (or temporary) arrangements for her transportation and home care will she make?

    1. Vroom Vroom

      This is a very good analogy. If, as many people are arguing above, Mental Illness shouldn’t have the stigma (I agree with that argument, side note) then it should be treated exactly the same as any other illness or injury.

      In fact, I think that’s kind of what Biff may be trying to argue though he got kind of dog-piled on above; that we as society shouldn’t feel like we have to bend over backwards to accommodate someone else’s mental illness any more than we would for someone else’s physical illness or injury. YES being accepting of mental illness and not stigmatizing it is a good thing, but if we want it to be ‘equal’ it shouldn’t include going BEYOND what we would for physical issues.

      I liken this to a workplace that values diversity. My workplace is very lacking of women, and our VP went around talking about how he wanted to specifically hire a woman for this one opening. I happen to know he got a lot of qualified male applicants, but filtered it down to the top 5 women to interview. I was livid – if I ever found out I got a job because I was the best WOMAN, not the best CANDIDATE, I would be so offended. Equality means EQUAL not EXTRA.

      1. fposte

        And I wouldn’t be offended. The job goes to one of the best candidates; what makes them best has to do with organizational culture and needs, and one of those needs could be not having enough women. I don’t see any reason to think that would make me inferior or the candidate pool inferior, and it’s redressing hiring pools that *were* inferior for excluding women.

        1. Boss Cat Meme

          You’re also talking about bringing in a resource that the office currently lacks–women. If a workplace NEEDS a certain type of person to become more diverse or to better reach certain groups of clients or something, I see nothing wrong with hiring the BEST woman for that position, or whoever. When we, as women, say things like, I would be really offended if I found out I was the best woman and not the best candidate, well then it implies that all women, in general, ARE inferior. A woman just might be the best candidate out of ANY pool, not just women only.

          HAVING equality and CREATING equality are two different things. When you start with an uneven playing field, say an office full of white men, then you must CREATE equality by recruiting diverse candidates before you can actually ACHIEVE equality at the office. No one would suggest firing a white man to hire a woman or a person of color, but if the opportunity arises to CREATE equality in the office with a new hire, then shouldn’t an employer try to do just that?

      2. Temperance

        I think the issue is that far too often, people are considered more qualified just because they are men.

  36. Jane

    Why doesn’t Amy contract or arrange through friends or family for a babysitter or caregiver as she would have to do in any other healthcare situation with less generous coworkers?

    1. ljs_lj

      Having had a grandparent who had different but similar enough problems, I would guess that the family and friends are burned out from helping her before the coworkers got roped into helping. Usually, if the person is on good terms with friends and family, those are the people who start helping out at first – one by one they probably got so frustrated trying to help Amy that either they cut ties or she did, and eventually there was no one left but her partner, and that’s when ‘outsiders’ got involved.

      In my family’s case, my parents were the first ‘helpers’ and eventually had to give up because of the hostile and unreasonable behavior of the grandparent in question (there were other issues but that was the core of it at the time). Over the course of about 10 years every living relative who was previously on good terms with this grandparent bailed out of the situation and in the end some people we had never heard of before were ‘helping out’ and even ended up in the will and there were a lot of legal shenanigans that I can’t get into online. I’m not saying that Amy is nasty like my grandparent, but it is a fairly unreasonable demand on someone’s time and space, so there’s a parallel. I have a lot of sympathy for her situation and I’ve dealt with intense anxiety and depression myself, but this is not a healthy situation for anyone involved.

      And as for contracting a caregiver, that takes money and (a) Amy might not have that kind of financial resource and (b) having a stranger invade her safe space may make things worse. There may also be other issues involving the partner or Amy’s family that we don’t know about.

      1. Jane

        Yes, I hear all that you’re saying, especially given lack of insurance coverage for home caregivers, lack of insurance coverage for mental healthcare, lack of insurance coverage for anything. But I still think if I was the coworker who couldn’t say no (or the manager trying to resolve this issue), I would try to put my energy into strategizing a lasting solution outside of relying on the kindness of coworkers.

        If you can pay someone then you can interview them and set up clearly structured boundaries which may help to establish a feeling of safety (a regular taxi/uber driver who you call directly? something skin to a dogwalker or babysitter for brief accompaniment?). Maybe pay a trusted coworker (how about an underpaid intern)? Friends’ kid?

        The OP didn’t mention that kind coworkers were ever reimbursed for travel, offered dinner, given brownies, or some other thanks or compensation. Does the person have work friendships, so these late nights could take place in the context of mutual enjoyment instead of awkward babysitting?

        If the anxiety is treated, would a diagnosis qualify the OP for state services like The Ride (a free bus service for elderly and people with disabilities in some cities)?

        Someone above suggested identifying safe places to sit and wait. What about finding some after work activities, hobbies, gym, etc so it’s not just waiting?

        I’m sure everyone can come up with tons of reasons why _nothing_ will work except naive guilt-induced coworkers feeling morally compelled to donate their time to her, but until the person and her partner try to offer up creative solutions that maybe actually could (or a generous coworker takes on this form of support as well), they’re setting themselves up for isolation and will lose the flexibility of those coworkers’ support in emergencies down the road.

        1. Green

          “I’m sure everyone can come up with tons of reasons why _nothing_ will work except naive guilt-induced coworkers feeling morally compelled to donate their time to her,”

          I think the most important takeaway from this thread is that the solution above is absolutely unreasonable. There may be barriers to her being able to use many of the wonderful suggestions on the thread, but that is her problem and not her colleagues’ to figure out a way to deal with.

        2. Observer

          I think you are missing something here.

          You are correct that unless “Amy” finds some better solutions or at least some solutions that don’t lean so heavily on her co-workers, she’s headed for even more trouble than she has already. The point it, though, that saying “well, she should just do X” or “Why doesn’t she just Z?” is not really appropriate. There are so many reasons why any one thing just wouldn’t fly that it’s not for anyone who is not both close to the sufferer, and familiar with the specifics of the situation, to make anything more than the most general of suggestions. eg “Get professional help”, “Look into our company EAP for resources”, “XYZ group provides resources for people who need mental health assistance. It might be worth looking into.”

          1. Green

            Well, we also have people saying “Well, it takes forever to get professional help! What more do you want her to do?” We’re getting into “some people don’t like sandwiches” territory here. Nobody thinks there’s a one-size fits all solution to this particular problem. But the “solution” she’s found is not a solution, and it’s not a good patch. It doesn’t work. So she needs to examine other solutions, some of which may work and some won’t. But things people have suggested (hiring a caretaker, especially) are certainly worth exploring. Whether it’s for the OP to suggest depends on the relationship they have. But if someone is making you part of their coping mechanism, you certainly have standing to suggest other alternatives.

          2. Jane

            But then these colleagues are stuck between a rock and a hard place: abandon Amy completely, which some of them appear loathe to do, or continue in this unsustainable driving/babysitting status quo. These aren’t suggestions to “fix” Amy’s anxiety, but potential ideas to meet the same need as this driving/babysitting thing in ways that are easier on her support system.

            1. Observer

              So what? The OP clearly doesn’t have the kind of standing to make such detailed suggestions.

              Beyond that “Why doesn’t she” type suggestions are inappropriate because there is way too much information missing here. Suggesting something to explore is valid. Implying that this IS a workable alternative, as the question does, is not.

              1. Green

                The kind of standing required to make such detailed suggestions (of things to explore) is usually conferred by mutual closeness. Here it is conferred by the fact that Amy has brought them into her medical condition by relying on her colleagues as part of her coping mechanism. They can just say “no”, but that may seem harsh to Amy or to the colleague, so it is a perfectly normal response to try to suggest other alternatives. “I’m sorry, I can’t do this any more. Have you looked into X or Y?” is not (or should not be) unreasonably offensive to people with health conditions who have been relying on you for unreasonable assistance.

  37. Just Visiting

    This is so bizarre to me, because I would honestly rather die than tell my coworkers any specifics about my mental illness. Most other people I know with ADHD are also very anti-disclosure. Of course, almost all of the anti-stigma campaigns are focused squarely on anxiety and depression so perhaps it’s not surprising that they are willing to be open while those with different or additional problems aren’t. It goes without saying that people with serious mood or psychotic disorders aren’t allowed to disclose let alone ask coworkers for favors like this.

    (I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad for being open or asking for support. My life would be better if I could. It’s just so not an option that I can’t help but feel a weird kind of jealousy.)

  38. bopper

    Definitely…Amy has a medical condition that does not appear to be treated.
    She needs to see a psychiatrist to see if meds would be in order.

  39. CQ

    As someone who also suffers from mental illness, including anxiety, I can totally feel Amy’s pain, but I know it’s a big obligation for coworkers to take on.

    I was wondering, Alison, what would your advice be for Amy if she wrote in?

      1. CQ

        True, and knowing your style, I think you would have been very kind in giving this advice, as you were kind here.

        As someone who also struggles with being alone sometimes, sometimes I’ll bring a book or my laptop to a coffee shop or a library and hang out there; that way, I’m not totally alone but I’m also not depending on other people to be with me. She might also arrange for a friend or family member to pick her up from work when her partner can’t. Or she could look into getting a pet so that she doesn’t feel so unsafe being alone at home.

        I have so much sympathy for her.

  40. Ultraviolet

    I’m hopelessly late here, but I wanted to ask why it would be best for OP to talk to Amy’s manager rather than her own, which would have been my first thought. To me, going to Amy’s manager feels a little like going around your own manager, or being out of line somehow. Would it be weird for OP to talk to their own manager about it?

    1. KellyK

      I think it’d be totally reasonable for the OP to ask her boss how to handle it. I think you go to your own manager to let them know that you’re having a problem and find out how they want you to address it, and to Amy’s manager because they’d want to know that she’s making people uncomfortable at work.

  41. LadyCISSP

    I agree.
    Her behavior has become a hindrance to her own work (& rep) as well as the work of others in the office. Especially when addressing the intern, it is sad that a person felt obligated to use their personal time, gas, & vehicle to transport a mentally ill coworker.
    I hope that OP speaks to the manager who may be aware already but likely not aware of the extent to which this has escalated. I don’t think her treatment is my business & imagine it would be a documented medical condition that she could be managing with her manager (no pun intended). Hopefully when the manager hears the level this has reached, she takes appropriate steps to bring it to the attention of the woman in question in a sensitive & private circumstance.
    I hope it turns out well & await an update.

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