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updated 4/7/2004 6:26:19 PM ET 2004-04-07T22:26:19

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Question: I have been off work for two weeks due to severe depression. I am now on new medication and seeing a therapist. I've never been through this before and am shocked that this is happening to me. My doctor tells me not to feel guilty -- he says it's the same as someone who is sick and needs medicine to get better.

But I do feel guilty, and I'm worried about going back to work and the 50 other people I work with asking me questions about being off work. When it is slow at work, all anyone does is gossip.

My doctor said it is none of their business and to tell them I have a medical condition that is being treated. But I still dread going back and dealing with people! Any ideas on how I should handle this? I can't take any more stress in my life.

Answer: My guess is that a healthy percentage of those 50 people are taking antidepressants, too!

Yes, people will probably ask you where you've been. Your doctor is right. Just say, "I've been sick and I've been getting better." No one needs to know, and your employer isn't allowed (by law) to ask. I know it's an awkward situation, but you'll get through it just fine -- because now, you are getting the treatment you need.

Karen Cameron, RN, MSN, is certified as a psychiatric/mental health nurse by the American Nurses Association. She has been counseling men and women in both inpatient and community settings for over 24 years.

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