Sick Day

“I think I’m coming down with something.”

A phrase that we hear, and might say ourselves, from time to time. You know the feeling; tired, run down, maybe some sneezes and sniffles or a scratchy throat that are the unmistakable hints that you’ve caught something and you’re getting sick.

So what do you do?

If you’re like me, you start loading up on vitamin c and drinking more water. Add in a wonderful brew of garlic, ginger, lemon and honey to help battle the germs. Make sure to rest more and try to take it easy so that my body can fight off the bug that is running rampant inside my normally healthy body. I’m lucky enough to have access to a sauna and that’s always part of my arsenal of wiping out the illness. Take some time off work and get better.  In short, I turn my attention to doing whatever I can to help make myself get better as quickly as I can. It’s what we have been told we should do, need to do, for ourselves and for the most part we do. Even I do, and I’m not great at taking care of myself.

So let’s flip this from physical to mental health.

“I am burned out and done. Just done.”

A phrase – or some variation of that gets said fairly often too. Words that convey the simple fact that things are just too much right now, or that our ability to meet the mental or emotional demands on us are just not up to it. Whether it’s work stress or personal issues, whether it’s the tap out from depression, anxiety, grief, exhaustion or any myriad of mental health issues – chronic or not, it doesn’t matter. What matters is what we do once we have hit that point.

So what do we do? In a perfect world, you would look at what it is that’s the main issue and address it. What do you need, right that moment, to make things better? Then do that. What do you need, long term, to help yourself? Then do that. You would find support or take yourself away from what is causing you stress. You would get help in the form of counselling or medication or therapies that work for you. You would take a day off, maybe a few if you can and take time to get better.

What actually happens though?

We cough and sneeze and call in or email and say we’re sick and stay home. Everyone tells us how much they hope we get better soon and that we should rest and not push ourselves – just take it easy and get better.

 

or….

 

We don’t think we can get out of bed because of the heavy and dark depression or the anxiety that is crippling today or *insert your own version here* but we do it anyways; we get dressed in between panic attacks and sobs that ruin the makeup we’ve already had to re-do twice and we put on clothes that we feel like we can hide inside of. We pull ourselves together and we became masters at faking being “okay” or “fine, just tired” so that we don’t have to try to explain.

Or we don’t get out of bed. We call in or email and say we have a migraine or stomach flu – anything that can be gone in 24 hours so that there won’t be too many questions tomorrow when we do manage to pull ourselves together and make it to the outside world again. We become masters at lying and hiding what is really wrong.

Why? Because making a call and saying “I’m not okay today. I’m not well and it’s not my body that’s the problem.” is not something that we know how to do. It’s also not something that we know how to hear and respond to either. That’s okay though because the only way things will change is if we start changing them after we admit that there is something that needs changing.

So today I did something I never do. Today I called in “sick” and didn’t lie about why. I said I was taking a mental health day and that I was just simply burned out and needed a day to rest and recharge and get my head screwed on straight. You know what? The reply was “good for you, do what you need to.”. Yes, I was nervous about being that honest but I also know that I need to start walking the talk about getting rid of stigma if I really mean it – and I do. Yes, I do realize that I am incredibly lucky that I can do that and that not all of us can. Not everyone has time off available and not everyone works in an environment that you could say those words and not worry about how it will affect your job security. But if you do, and can, please do it when you need to. It’s the only way that taking care of our mental health will start being seen as just as normal and necessary as taking care of our physical health.

I Want You To Know

What do you value? What goals do you have that you want to achieve and how do they relate to the values that you hold true for yourself and how you want to live your life.

 

A couple of questions among a few today in a course that I’m taking. Questions that opened the door into a journaling task. A task that was to be done quickly, in class, not taking more than a few minutes. Designed to let us jot down our instinctive responses without over-thinking and without trying to analyze. Simply to write down our most basic “what do you want”. An exercise that was to tie into last week’s look at why we fail or succeed in making changes in areas of our lives that we say we want to change. Simple.

 

But first, before what I want, a little background.

I’ve been living with a depression for the last few (okay, many) months and fighting even acknowledging it to myself, never mind to anyone else. I’ve just barely started being open about how deep the shadows are to my partner and letting glimpses of how I’m doing be seen by a couple of others. most definitely not ok is indicative of just how bad it is right now. It’s that depression that fogs over everything right now for me. It’s dark and heavy and exhausting, and I’m so tired of it.

 

Sitting in class today, looking at my paper and holding my pen in hand, trying to even feel what I want so that I can write it down. Tears coming to my eyes again – like they had been off and on for most of the class – as I am overwhelmed by the sadness that I felt. Sadness that the one word that was front and centre felt so far from me. The one word that slowly came into my mind to explain what I want more than anything else just made me want to give up with how unattainable it felt to me.

 

Light.

 

I want to be light again. I am so exhausted from the heaviness of depression and grief that I sometimes forget what it feels like to not be crushed by it. I know that I have times that it’s merely a shadow and that I do peek out from under it but on days like today, those times are hard to remember – even harder to recall how it feels to have that lightness of being.

 

The sadness I feel in writing that hurts because within that is a deeper, more urgent want that wiggles in my mind as I work towards that lightness again. A sadness for what this darkness has made so hard lately. Connections, re-connections of relationships lost and let go of in my depression and grief, reassurance to those who are close to me still (even with all my efforts to push away hard).

 

I so desperately want the people who are in my life to know that it’s not all dark and heavy – and that I DO know that. I am blessed and I have so much in my life that does bring me happiness and laughter and light…and I am trying so hard to be aware of those times just as , if not even more than, the times when the heaviness weighs in.

 

I want and need for the people in my life to see when I’m having a light and easy day and there are smiles and joy to not worry if a cloud rolls in for a few minutes, maybe some tears or sadness will come. But it’ll pass. A single cloud doesn’t ruin a beautiful day. I promise.

 

I want and need for the people in my life to know that when the clouds pile up and darken and stick around, they’ll pass too. It might take longer than a moment, but they will. They always do, some days I have a harder time remembering that but I promise that they will pass too.

 

I want and need for the people in my life to know that it IS getting better and I need for you to remind me of that when I fall apart and share that I don’t know if it is – or ever will be better.

I want you to know how much it means to me that you are there to tell me that when I can’t see it.

 

I want you to know that I hide behind “I’m ok, just tired” or “I’m fine” like you do too…and I see you and it’s ok to hide behind that if you need to; I know sometimes I need to not share how I really am too. It’s ok when it’s too much.

 

I want you to know that sometimes I can be what we all are in some way or other:

Perfectly okay and doing great.

A mess.

Loved and loving.

Falling apart.

Grateful for all the amazing and wonderful things and people in my life.

Overwhelmed and lost in depression

Joyful and light.

Hurt.

Laughing, smiling, sincerely happy and content.

Scared that it won’t ever be different.

Excited for tomorrow..

Wanting to give up.

 

I want to say thank you for being in my life. Whether you are someone who I share a few minutes with once or twice a year…a casual friend… a chosen family or close friend…or my partner, my love… I want you to know that I can be, like we all are, both a work in progress and a masterpiece, all at the same time.