Need advice on how to return to work?
November 23, 2012 1:58 PM   Subscribe

Returning to work after hospitalization following suicude attempt. How to navigate this with coworkers?

The coworkers know I was in the hospital for a week. Two I'm close to even know why. There are others I'm close to as well (we carpool, or we just work closely together, or some that probably know why I was in there without me telling).

The bottom line is I don't want to talk about it and don't know how to field questions that are already coming in via phone calls. How do I navigate this?
posted by rainygrl716 to Work & Money (18 answers total)
"Personal issues" and a look that says we are not talking about this and anyone who pries past that is being really, really rude and unprofessional.
posted by griphus at 2:01 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

"I had to be hospitalized for some medical problems--don't really want to get into the details--but I'm doing much better now, thank you for asking." if you're comfortable revealing that much, naturally.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:01 PM on November 23, 2012 [19 favorites]

Tell them you were sick but you are better now.
posted by Autumn89 at 2:01 PM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Or leave off the first part. "I'm doing well, thanks for asking."
posted by kellybird at 2:02 PM on November 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

Most people are going to be as uncomfortable asking about it as you would be talking about it and won't bring it up, even if they know.
posted by empath at 2:13 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Kidney stones. Totally ok to lie to protect your privacy. You need to focus on yourself without worrying about the gossip machine.
posted by pearlybob at 2:14 PM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Admittedly somewhat sexist, but if you are a lady person you can always say "personal medical emergency" and most people will assume some kind of messy female problem.
posted by elizardbits at 2:26 PM on November 23, 2012 [7 favorites]

Since some in the office already know why you were hospitalized, I would caution against lying. It has the potential of putting you, and others, in unnecessarily awkward conversation scenarios. Plus, lying is stressful.

Instead, I would opt for revealing less rather than more, for right now. As time passes, and you have more perspective on your recent experience, you can choose to discuss it more (or not).

Really, I think all that people want to know is that you are OK. How you phrase that to them is your choice. And I think most people will understand that you prefer to focus on work, and not mingle personal/health topics with professional ones.
posted by nacho fries at 2:30 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also if anyone gives you any kind of annoying socially inept pressure to tell them more details when you don't want to, do not feel ashamed or embarrassed to tell them that it's none of their business. THEY are the ones being unimaginably rude in this situation, for being intrusive about personal issues in the workplace.
posted by elizardbits at 2:32 PM on November 23, 2012 [15 favorites]

Oh sweetie, I'm so sorry. First Of all there's nothing bad or shameful about what happened. That said, it's nobody's business. People care about you and want to express their concern. When they say something, no matter how awkward, acknowledge their good intentions and then drop it. "I'm feeling better now, thank you for your concern."
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:25 PM on November 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

I once had a co-worker who emailed us the weekend prior to her return saying, more or less:

Subject: Thank You

Thank you for the flowers and well wishes that the office sent. It was very nice of you all to think of me. I'd also like to thank you in advance for respecting my privacy and desire not to discuss the personal nature of my absence. Just know that I am feeling much better and really look forward to seeing you all on Monday.


posted by it's a long way to south america at 3:32 PM on November 23, 2012 [25 favorites]

"Personal medical emergency"

and you're feeling much better now, thanks for asking. Did Bob give you the TPS reports?

It's none of anybody's gorram business. Regardless of what they know.
posted by tel3path at 3:45 PM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I had this experience, only it was going back to college classes and such. In my case since medication was involved I simply said I had a reaction to it. Nobody really pressed the issue.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:08 PM on November 23, 2012

I think it's a long way to south america's suggestion is a good one. I've been on the receiving end of emails similar to that more than once, sometimes when the co-worker has been ill, or has suffered a death in their family. If you think that would work in your office culture, then that's the way to go.

People often do feel obliged to ask after they know someone has been ill or in hospital, as they worry about being thought insensitive for not asking. Having a pre-planned answer (some of the ones above are good) will make it easier for you to answer. That said, anyone who pushes you for more information than your stock answer delivers deserves an eyebrow raise and "I'd rather not talk about it anymore."
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 5:22 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I doubt people will ask about it. It's likely they may want to express to you that they are glad you are OK and they want to be there for you. You may not want to hear it or wish to discuss it, so probably what's best is to keep things curt, but courteous, and change the subject and they will get the hint. That said, glad you are OK and wish you the best in recovery ahead.
posted by AppleTurnover at 6:35 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

it's a long way to south america's suggestion is an excellent one, in part because it gives everybody else a cue as to how to respond to it: there's nothing wrong and nothing shameful about it, and at the same time not anything open for general discussion or questioning.

Best wishes. Speaking as someone who's spent a lot of time time fighting those impulses, I'm very glad you're still here with us.
posted by Lexica at 8:36 PM on November 23, 2012

If the info gets widely out, demonstrating a sense of humor, if possible, is essential. It's the only way to show you're "better now", which is what they want to know and which will break ice. "Not talking about it" will keep people walking on eggshells forever. It will define you.

I'm not suggesting you make suicide jokes, obviously. You don't need to go there (and if you did, jokingly, it'd be even worse, because you can laugh but they're not sure they can). Just be well-humored, generally. That will make the whole thing pass, so it doesn't remain the gorilla in the room.
posted by Quisp Lover at 11:20 PM on November 23, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you all. I'm in a situation where I'm not really ready to go back Monday but kinda have to, even with FMLA... so it's going to be hard to be strong but I think just being clear I won't give details and thanking them for their concern will have to be enough.
posted by rainygrl716 at 1:30 PM on November 24, 2012

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