I took a mental health day, and it wasn’t what I expected.
At the moment, I am struggling with how much anxiety, rage and misery I feel when heading to work.
A day that requires me to leave my office and talk to other staff for any reason is essentially the worst thing to happen since the price increase on Freddos.
An email with no grammar or punctuation, or questions that have already been answered is enough for a burning fury to build inside me to the point of no return.
I am entirely, completely irrational when it comes to my working environment.
I’ve always wondered how people feel when they take time off: Even when I’ve been ‘actually poorly’ and taken the day off and later ended up feeling better, I’ve ridden the guilt train into the night and beyond.
So when I woke up and plucked up the courage to call in, the guilt instantly kicked in.
Despite my killer immune system and stressed out lil brain, I opted emphasising a physical illness I’d been feeling rather than an honest mental one. Because some things in life are just easier.
And here’s what happened:
– I spent the first hour playing FarmVille on my phone until my battery ran out.
– Ate half a family sized bar of chocolate. The only reason it wasn’t a whole one was because I’d already eaten that the night before.
– Watched the whole series of The End of the Fucking World with Netflix only asking me twice if I was still watching.
Of course I was, Netflix is so judgey.
– Tried busying myself with washing up
And then came the panic: The inevitable guilt of ‘I should be at work’.
The panic that I wasn’t being productive with this time: Wasn’t working to better myself; to clean the house, to blog, to get round to all the things I want to do.
Is leaving the house cheating? Do I have to sit in the house moping all day?
Even taking time off for anxiety, I feel anxious about how to spend the time…
Then there was fear about going back to work.
And that panic turned into sheer terror.
Solution: Get a doctors note to cover time off until I can get a new job and prevent the impending insanity.
But am I even worth a new job? Do I have the skills for a new job? How will I deal with the embarrassment of handing my notice in and spending the further 2 months working for the company while they look at me like a disappointed, highly offended parent?
Oh, how they’ll judge me. How they’ll make me feel about quitting. How they’ll try to ‘relate’ about one time they were feeling stressed and this happened and yadda yadda…
Besides, who can even afford sick pay? How can money not be a huge anxiety? I can’t afford my flat if I get sick pay. And how much of a fight would it be if I went back to work after? I’d be quarantined and questioned. Investigated. Have parts of my job taken off of me. Hate my environment even more.
– Que panic attack and sob on the phone to mum
– Forced myself out of the house for a Starbucks and wrote this blog post.
The guilt and the stress and the anxiety a Mental Health Day cost me was absolutely not worth it. In fact, it gave me more time to build up the terror I had originally felt and suppressed for so long.
The anxiety of going back to work is far greater than the anxiety of going to work in the first place.
There have been times when I’ve had to cower in Costa in tears on my way in, and have my brother encourage me on the phone to go to work.
Or moments when I’ve woken up and the world has been grey. Like living in a black and white film.
And my solution: Go to work and forget about it.
Not once have I been offered a doctors note when I’ve called up stressed out my nut ready to do something crazy. But not once have I asked for one either.
Asking for a sick note or time off feels like giving up. It’s almost like if a doctor doesn’t offer me one, I’ve not yet ‘qualified’ for the option. And so I’m left thinking there’s nothing to do but plod on, suck it up and grovel on the weekends. Everyone else gets 1-2 days off a week. Why isn’t that enough for me?
I’ve created my own personal stigma towards just having time to myself. Because quite frankly, there’s absolutely nothing worse for me.
I completely understand that some people need the time off. And I’m not against it. If I could focus on my health and find a way to feel calm, I would do it too. But for me, I am not a chiller.
One cannot simply just chill.
What about the 7 tonnes of guilt balancing precariously on my shoulders? The money worries? The judgement? The heavy feeling of knowing I should be doing something else?
Which is why taking time off the thing that’s making me worse is actually counter productive. And that’s such a mind bending concept to have to get my head around.
Instead I just get lower and lower, cry out for attention and then dismiss it when it comes (legit going to be my POF bio if I ever have a need for one. #charmer)
When I’m on my own, I spend my time freaking out about what’s happening at work, what people are saying about me, what people are messing up in my absence.
I fester in my own anxieties and sadness and misery rather than taking the time to make an action plan and make things better. I start panicking and re-evaluating my worth, my future, my entire being.
Voices in my head decide I’m a fraud or a failure and a liar; I’m giving up and I’m pathetic; everyone is going to see right through me; there’s nothing really wrong and I’m just weak; I’ve lost another battle. lil fucker.
Time off for mental health is 100% acceptable. And yet, taking time off – for me – whether that’s a holiday, weekend, evening, physical illness or mental – creates a sense of shame, guilt and fear that I cannot rationalise or control. (Evenings and weekends I find myself needing to be working on something / anything).
Well, I can.
Relaxing at the best of times makes me feel uncomfortable. Even the word makes me feel on edge. So it’s no wonder ‘self care’ and ‘self love’ are phrases and concepts I despise. Why make time for self care when I can just work and keep work stress at bay?
(By at bay, I mean at the forefront of absolutely everything but not quite losing my hair level)
I feel stress and fear and rage at work
I feel stress and fear and panic about work when not working
I feel stress and fear and panic when I try to relax
So which is the best option? How can I look after myself when all I feel is three emotions when trying to make myself feel better.
Where does it end? Which do I settle at?
And all of this is how I think or feel or unpack when I’m away from work – I’m trapped needing to work to feel better about work.
Because one simply does not just chill.