Sometimes, I don’t want to go to work. I bet there are times when you don’t want to go either. But, sometimes, I physically can’t go to work. Or, socialize with people. Or, leave my house. There are days when I can make myself get up and go, and once I’m out the door and dealing with life, I feel better. But, there are some days where I can’t do it. The mere idea of going to work, or even attempting a shower is too much to think about. I start to panic, and I just can’t. So, I take a sick day. Because, I have to. This is a “mental health day”. Have you ever taken one? If you haven’t, you should.
According to a 2016 survey from the American Psychological Association less than half of Americans say their employers support employee well-being. Also, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families, about 41 million people don’t have sick days, so mental health days can’t be used. Trust me when I say, I understand that it’s a luxury to take some time for myself, and we don’t all have a workplace that allows for such indulgences. But, if we don’t take care of ourselves, our work will suffer. Our lives will suffer. We will suffer.
I’ll be real with you, I have depression. It’s manageable, but it’s there. I take medication for it, and work very hard to keep it at bay, but it’s not always easy. Along with that depression comes anxiety, and also, insomnia. It’s all a vicious cycle, really, and I try very hard to make my life livable with this, but sometimes, my body and my brain have other thoughts. I am seeing a therapist, which is amazing and wonderful, but the kind of work I’m doing in these sessions leaves me very depleted and, sometimes, overwhelmingly sad. And, I know what I’m doing is extremely beneficial, but the aftermath of these sessions has been very hard for me to deal with. It was so bad for a while, I applied to take doctor-approved leave at work so that I could get through my days after having a session. I needed extra time to cope, and to process all that had happened. I spoke with my supervisor and let him know I was having an ongoing issue, and wanted to be honest and tell him sometimes, I can’t be at work. However, he was incredibly gracious and let me do what I needed to do, and I’m very thankful.
Mental health is usually the last thing we tackle when we want to take care of things. In general, anything having to do with ourselves really doesn’t seem to be a priority. I know when others need me, and they’re having a hard time, I have a tendency to put my needs on the back burner and plunge headfirst into helping someone else. There is nothing wrong with wanting to help others, but there is something very wrong with ignoring yourself, as I have learned in this past year. If I don’t take care of myself, and don’t pay attention to what I need, I will be no good to anyone else. It’s hard to know when to take that time for myself, though. If I’ve had a rough night of not sleeping, I can still function, but I’m not going to be great at work. I probably get maybe 4 hours of sleep a night, and when you add it up at the end of the week, it’s not a whole lot of time. I am restless, listless and extremely fragile, and my mood definitely suffers.
There is so much stigma around getting help, and acknowledging what is wrong with ourselves. But, in order to really thrive, and to get better, we have to take the necessary steps to get to where we need to be. I had a very hard time reckoning that I needed to see a therapist again. I’ve seen a few before this most recent one, and they were all fine, but no one ever got to the surface of what I needed help with. But, here I am, getting the help I need. However, as my therapist told me, it sometimes gets worse before it gets better. Like anyone, I have my good days, and my bad days. And, I know I’m lucky because I do have a working environment that’ll allow me to take the time I need, and is also focused on the health of their employees. Taking a mental health day isn’t wrong, it’s necessary. Maybe you stay home and binge watch “Glow” on Netflix. Or, maybe you tackle that new Roxane Gay book you’ve been waiting to read. Or, maybe you cry, and you sleep, and you lie around in your pajamas all day. If that’s what you need to get through the day, do it.
We are all really trying our best. Do what’s best for you, and remember, your mental health is important. You are important.