It's OK To Be Honest about Taking a Mental Health Day

Tuesday, June 12, 2018


I wasn't a devoted fan of either Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain. Sure, I have a few Kate Spade bags I love, & I'd seen Bourdain as a guest on the many cooking shows I've obsessed over throughout the years, but I can't claim to have been a devotee of either of them. Still, when their suicides made headlines last week, I found myself deeply affected by the news & by the subsequent conversations their deaths inspired online.

Last Friday, the first thing I read when I woke up in the morning was a text from my friend Sammi that said, "I'm having a hard time with the news of Anthony Bourdain." As I read through the headlines, I found myself retreating into my own head. I was shocked - but I also went kind of numb. I had no reaction whatsoever.

All I wanted was to go back to sleep. So I did. 

I sent an email to my boss saying I needed to take a sick day... & then I slept until 3pm. Yeah, I know, that's a lot of sleep, but I guess I needed it, emotionally and/or physically. I just felt like I couldn’t face the day, you know? I needed to turn my brain off.

When I woke up in the middle of the afternoon, I felt much, much better. Sleeping is, of course, not always the healthiest way to address serious emotions, but in this case, it was really helpful to be able to rest, rejuvenate, & try to face the (rest of the) day with a little bit of added strength.

Upon waking, I showered & got dressed (because nobody ever crawled out of a dark hole with tangled, unwashed hair), then caught up on a little bit of work & invited my mom up for a quick visit. Mike was out of town, so my mom & I had a little mother/daughter date night: dinner & drinks at Bourbon Street Barrel Room, some shopping at Banyan Tree, and exploring the neighborhood during Walkabout Tremont. When she left, I watched UnREAL, caught up on some blogging, & went to bed early.

In short, the day was exactly what I needed to replenish, refill, & refresh.

Now, normally, if I took a sick day from work, I wouldn't do anything in the evening. That was the rule when I was a kid - "If you're too sick to go to school, you're too sick to do anything after school" - & I've held fast to it in adulthood. Even if I feel better by nightfall, I'm not going to share photos of a night out on the town after I've taken a sick day. After all, my boss follows me on Instagram!

But this felt a little bit different.

Even though I hadn't said so in my initial email to my boss, I did post to Instagram that I had taken a sick day. I shared some words about being a suicide survivor, about the importance of therapy, medication, & time to heal. I encouraged others to take the time they needed, if they were able - to take care of themselves however they saw fit. For me, that meant staying home from work & indulging in some things I love & enjoy, as a means of healing.

While it may not have felt quite right to say, in my email to my boss, "I'm taking a sick day because my heart is sad, & my brain hurts, & I need to sleep for five more hours before I feel OK," I wasn't ashamed for her to know that, nor was I embarrassed to say so online afterward. And in this case, the things that I did later in the day - you know, after I'd slept for a billion hours - were low-key, self-care actions that helped me feel better overall. They were part of the medicine I needed.

Mental health is real; mental health is health. And taking control of your health is not embarrassing.

If you need space, whether it's during a period of jarring news headlines or just an overwhelming time in your own life, I hope you find a way to take it, whether it means cashing in one of your sick days or canceling your weekend plans.

Get off the Internet. Spend time in nature. Read a book. Or just enjoy the peace & quiet. You don’t have to listen to me or the news or people on Twitter talking suicide - even the supportive ones.

Do what you need to do to be OK, today & always. Be kind to yourself, & listen to what your soul needs from you.

1 comment:

Ashleigh said...

Thank you for this! Both Kate’s & Anthony’s suicide rocked me as well. I couldn’t shake it at all and even had an anxiety attack while on a dinner date. �� I still hadn’t felt better by Monday and ended up taking the last half of the day off and I’m glad I did. If I’m being honest, I definitely need about a week off and a beach lol

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