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Despite suffering from mental health issues all of my adult life, I still find needing to take time off when I am suffering one of the hardest things to do. I don’t think there will ever be a time when I need to take that time off that I won’t feel guilty. Despite it being exactly the same as psychical health because it can’t be seen, it somehow makes me feel like I am being lazy. Last summer I had to take a month out due to struggling so bad with my mental health and every time I went out of the house I felt guilty. Even if it was only to the gym or therapy, like the motto of if I am sick I should be in bed was drilled into me growing up, but this is a different kind of sick, on the outside I look normal, despite the possibility of huge eye bags, messy and unwashed hair and 3 days old pjs.
I am not in any physical pain that you can see, but my brain convinces me of all of the bad things and talks me out of anything good I once felt about myself, it makes me feel tired, like I’ve walked a hundred miles, I have headaches from the lack of sleep I am getting and don’t even get me started on my panic attacks. But yet I still feel guilty for being ‘sick’, I suppose I see it as there is no way it’s going to be cured, unlike a cold or a sickness bug.
I wake up with the dread over my head that I need to tell my work once again I am feeling ill, and they already know what it’s going to be, and despite being kind and understanding I can’t help but feel like one of the worst people in the world. I lay in bed surrounded by the guilt of having to phone into work and also the sheer panic that this is the time I am going to get fired. Luckily for me, my work is understanding and as long as I am willing to see my doctor/ be proactive about the time I need off, they are ok with it. But no matter how many times I am in this situation, it ends up feeling like the worst time yet.
Usually, I am lucky, the days off I have are enough to help me recover and help me to feel better, however, I know some of us aren’t that lucky. This time last year I was signed off for 5 weeks at the same job I am at now as I went from a small amount of part-time work to 5 days a week with blogging added on top, and everything became too much. I felt scared that this was going to be the end of my new job back then and that didn’t make it any easier to relax. Once I went back to work things seemed easier, I cut down my days to 4 and do a lot more blogging now and it feels less like I am drowning. I will always have my down days, weeks or even months but that is something I need to come to terms with.
Please remember that your work should treat your mental health the same as they would with any psychical health condition and allow you the time you need to recover. I understand that often it is hard to open up to your employer in the first place, but if you feel comfortable doing so I would recommend it, so they can provide the support you may need. I am lucky in the fact I have a doctor that knows my situation and is happy to provide my work with the documents I need for long-term sickness.
I am now hoping that I do not need another sick day for a while as I hate taking them and I hate phoning up to tell them that I feel this way, but if I do, I know it cannot be helped and I shouldn’t make myself feel guilty for it. I’d love to know your experiences with mental health days at your work in the comments.