I work closely with a colleague who has anxiety and takes medication for it. Occasionally, the med affects her in a, “she seems tired” kind of way. I’m kind of an anxious person myself but not requiring a doctor’s supervision so I sort of relate but also don’t have a full grasp on what she has to deal with. We share a supervisor, who is aware of the anxiety. As is his supervisor. I am not sure of why this was originally disclosed to them, but it did come directly from Colleague.
I am helping to train her up (she’s been here ~ 1yr) and, because we support the same research area, we are often both involved on the same programs and work with a lot of the same people. Colleague is, overall, smart, competent and fine to work with.
Yesterday, she popped into my office and asked me to join her in a meeting with two project managers. I was caught off guard but have worked extensively with the one and feel comfortable winging these kinds of things. Seeing Colleague a little “off” is not unusual but she usually settles in after a few minutes and recovers. Not yesterday.
The meeting had been going on for some time when she pulled me in and this was bad. Slurred speech. No eye contact. Incoherent. Randomly talked over the three of us. Corrected me on something very basic, except she was wrong (I don’t even know if she actually thinks this wrong thing or if it was the meds talking). I found myself correcting the course of the conversation several times. The Project Managers definitely noticed. I noted the time. It was late in the afternoon and she tends to come in and leave on an earlier schedule so I was hoping she would take the “out”. She did not. A few minutes go by and I mention that I need to leave soon. She continued. I stayed hoping to find some way to end the meeting but couldn’t think of anything. I feel terrible for her. She checked her cell phone while they talked. She told us about a text her husband sent. I am dying of cringe.
The subject changed to a project I’m not involved in. She continued. She then blurted out, without looking at me, “You can leave now!” I made my goodbyes and left the room. I then went directly to our supervisor. He’s a good boss who has demonstrated fairness and compassion on many an occasion so I’m not feeling great about what I’m about to say but I don’t know what else to do. I informed him that Colleague was “not herself” and was there any way he could get her out of there. He asked for details. I somehow avoided the phrase, “high as a fucking kite.” He mentioned the anxiety but I’m not sure he’s ever really witnessed the worst of the meds. And, I get that. I wasn’t there to tattle, I was there in the hopes that he could help her. But no. This is minutes before 5:00 and he has to leave for an appointment. We both basically looked at each other like, speechless. I had to go (had to pick up my kids). It didn’t hit me until I got home that, “holy shit, she drove.”
So, basically, I was worried about her all night. And I feel really shitty that I couldn’t shut the meeting down. I feel ok but also shitty that I went to our supervisor. I’ve had my office door closed all day b/c I don’t even know what to say or if she realizes how bad it was (she has previously acknowledged, in real time, when the medication was making her drowsy but what I saw yesterday was beyond that). I think it is a realistic concern that her behaviors in the meeting could affect her professionally. And since it isn’t an isolated incident, the likelihood of a repeat performance is high.
I’m not her supervisor. I’m not her family. But we do have a good rapport.
I’m torn between, “I’ve said my peace,” and never speaking of it again and offering support, in a professional capacity. As in “Yesterday seemed like a bad day, perhaps you can discuss with Boss about how to handle meetings when you’re feeling overwhelmed.” I don’t know, I’m spitballing here.
What say you, hive mind? Anything I should know about anxiety that might come in handy or to just file away?
FTR: Her door was also shut most of today. She’s laying low. Our boss might have said something to her today.