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.

This could become a “thing”!

So today is my birthday and, unlike most years, I’m embracing it in ways that I normally wouldn’t. I’m not one to put a lot of significance into acknowledging or celebrating it. It’s not a day that has usually had much recognition, by myself more so than anyone else. I don’t mean it in a way of saying that I feel like it’s been ignored or that it’s been a negative thing, it’s just the way that I’m wired for it. Some people make a huge deal out of their birthdays, and that’s all good, I’m just not one of them. I had actually kept my birth date off of social media for years because I don;t like a lot of attention being paid to it, usually.

Last year was a bit out of the norm for me. My partner did make a deal of. She treated me to a surprise night out at an amazing show and a wonderful home-cooked dinner. Being made to feel special was a new experience for me. The way she did it was the best and I loved it’s simplicity and it’s personal nature. It felt good to feel good and to celebrate something that is so intrinsically personal and all about me. Not an easy thing for me to understand.

This year, from the moment go this morning, it’s been a new experience. I’m not “doing” anything for my birthday but I am “being” different today and how that is feeling to me has taken me by surprise. It began though, before today even. Last night I took the time to pick up a couple of things while I was grocery shopping. Items that would help make an already planned and looked-forward-to dinner even better. Items that will compliment the scrumptious pasta sauce that my sweetie sent me home with from the weekend.

I took the time to think of how to make my planned experience even better.

I took the time to think of myself and how could I could make myself happier.

I put my attention on myself.

That’s a big thing. That’s not something that is my usually way of being and thinking. Felt good though.

I woke up this morning and made myself coffee and took my time getting ready. I actually dawdled and sat and scrolled through social media and smiled as I saw messages and wishes for a happy day.

I made a conscious and very intentional decision to pick out something to wear that I loved and that made me feel good today. Why? For the unheard of reason that I decided that I wanted to feel amazing today and that I deserved that.

What a concept! One that, as simple and easy and obvious as it sounds, isn’t one that I operate with as part of my life usually. It’s not anything as dysfunctional as “I hate myself” (most of the time) but it’s just that I don;t register on my own radar for doing something, anything, for myself beyond necessity and basics.

Being, what I would consider self indulgent, or even just being attentive to what will put a smile on my face or make me feel good inside or out doesn’t exist for me really.

But you know what? I have spent the day (so far! It’s not over yet!) paying attention to myself and putting myself and feeling good foremost in my mind – even while working a full day and getting things done!

I’ve taken the time to indulge in thinking about  myself and in recognizing that my feeling good is important and worth spending time and energy on. This may have to become a daily thing, it feels so good. This could become a thing!