So this afternoon, I was returning home from running some errands – dropping some envelopes off at the post office and buying milk – when I tripped on nothing and semi-sprained my ankle. This is not the first time that this has happened to me. I am sitting in my apartment now and pitying myself, grumpy because this is just the cherry on the ice cream sundae that is my life right now.
Yesterday, I was approved for a three-week short term leave from work. I requested it because on Tuesday, I finally experienced a bit of a breakdown that was building up for months and months. I felt anxious and depressed, and in pain because of both, when I realized that I was killing myself by trying to pretend to be okay and function normally all day when I really just honestly do not feel well. This afternoon, someone in my support group said something relevant and that resonated. They said that mental health care in our country is like telling someone with heart problems to come back to the doctor only if they are having a heart attack. I have been suffering from the “heart problems” equivalent of mental health issues, but not been taking it seriously enough. I decided it was time to take the time to focus on my health, instead of trying to get better while continuously making it worse by forcing myself to put aside my feelings for 8 hours a day. I was sick of the chest pain, the difficulty breathing at times, the hopelessness, the de-realization, the racing thoughts, the negative self-talk and the restlessness. The panic. Feeling powerless over my emotions. Seeing my self-confidence slip away every day and feeling guilty because I could feel my mental health impacting my productivity. The need for lots of sleep because of the Seroquel that I was taking.
I feel better now that I have decided to take control of my health and well-being. That I recognized that my recovery right now needs to encompass my whole life, not just part of it. But I also feel terrible because I feel like I am ruining my life. Even though everyone has told me this break is a good idea, I feel like I am giving up. I feel like I am not trying hard enough. I feel weak. I feel like I am letting people down. I feel like I am letting myself down. I feel like I am putting my career on hold. I feel like I am putting my future on hold. I feel like I am destroying my financial goals. I feel a lot, clearly.
So what do I plan to do in the next three weeks? I plan on seeing a psychiatrist at the local mental health hospital. I plan on seeing my therapist. I plan on adjusting to a medication change. I plan on exercising (if I can stop accidentally hurting myself!). I plan on reading. I plan on cooking and eating well and speaking with my nutritionist regularly. I plan on going to support groups. I plan on researching other mental health resources and seeing what’s available to me. I plan on keeping busy but also taking the time to relax and rest and recharge. Which means not feeling guilty if I sleep in once in a while. Or every day.
I’m hoping that by the end of the three weeks, my emotions and mood will be more stable. I won’t feel this crippling depression or painful anxiety symptoms. I hope three weeks is enough time. I’m hoping that I can change my outlook and see this break as an opportunity for growth, rather than a setback. I hope that I can learn from my experience and move on with confidence.
Have you ever taken a break from work due to mental health or even just physical health issues? What did you do to help yourself recover? I need your help and feedback! Leave it in the comments below.