Q: I'm a young professional with a decent office job. I generally like my co-workers. At work I am cheerful and friendly and, at least to the eye, a picture of perfect health. But I'm also a recovering rape survivor who is battling an increasingly debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder. Recently things have gone downhill and I find myself at least once a day crying in the bathroom.
I am working with a therapist, doctor, etc., but things have become so overwhelming that I've decided I need to take a leave of absence to focus more intensely on my therapy and learn how to self-care again. I've talked to my boss about this and she is wonderfully supportive.
The question then becomes what to tell my co-workers? My boss said she'd be fine with just telling them I'm burned out and taking a long vacation (about five weeks), but I'm not comfortable with that, as my leaving gives everyone else more work and I don't want people to think I'm making things harder for them just for a bit of R&R.
The other option is, of course, to say "medical leave," but I feel like that's going to invite a lot of questions I can't bear to answer. I just can't deal with sharing this one of mine. Help?
A: I'm sorry you're going through this. It does sound, though, as if you're handling it with strength and grace. "Medical leave" is the way to go, and it's the only explanation you need for mature acquaintances, who will have questions but also enough sense not to ask them. Those who aren't there yet will pry, yes, but the only answer required is "Thank you for your concern. It's a private matter."