Taking Care of Me

I took the day off from work today. I took a sick day. I was sick. I have been sick. I have been sick for a few weeks now, and I have powered through because mental illness and physical illness are not the same.

When you suffer from mental illness, you are supposed to get up every day and power through anyway.

Mental illness is not stay home from work illness.

Mental illness is pretend you are okay and go about your life as if everything is fine illness.

On Monday, I realized that I was too sick to keep doing that and I was not going to get better if I did not take a break sometime soon. Today, I took a break. I stayed home from work. I took a sick day. Not because I was vomiting or feverish or diarrheal or even stuffed up.

I stayed home because my soul is tired. I needed to sleep until after six and not feel compelled to respond to my email. I needed to be permitted to read and to enjoy silence.

I hate that our society is so results focused that we have lost sight of people.

Our treatment of mental illness as an inappropriate use of a sick day is one such example of that.

Today, I slept until nearly 7:00. I needed it. I had three nights in a row of middle of the night anxiety. Middle of the night anxiety is some of the worst anxiety I ever experience. I roll over in the middle of the night, and suddenly, my brain is awake. My back seizes up with tension. I feel those knife stabs of heat that radiate throughout my spinal column. And my brain tells me a hundred terrible things. It reminds me of things I forgot, things I need to do, things that I can do nothing about in the middle of the night. My brain is not kind to me in the middle of the night.

Three nights of that was enough.

I took a sick day.

And last night, I slept. According to my Fitbit, which tracks my sleep on good nights and bad, I slept three total hours more last night than any of the three preceding nights.

I slept until 7.

I rolled over, hearing Sunshine in the dining room talking to Saint Daddy, wondering why I was not awake yet.

Normally, I would have jumped right on Facebook, but I uninstalled it during that last sleepless night. Instead, I checked Timehop and got out of bed.

I did Sunshine’s hair for school and scrambled with Saint Daddy to pack her lunch, a usual morning task for me and one that Saint Daddy and I let slip our minds today.

Once Sunshine left for school, I took out my laptop and did one hour of work. A day off for my mental health would be poorly served if I did not use it to take things off my schedule for work. Work is one of my biggest stressors right now. It is 75% of my to-do list. Not doing anything for work today would have put me nowhere closer to clearing up that list of things I forgot and things I have to do.

One hour of work.

I retrieved Sleepy and Grumpy from their cribs, gave them their morning “guk” (Grumpy’s word for milk), and continued my work.

When the hour was up, I put my laptop away and made today about me.

I played with my sons, whom I see too little of during the work week and cannot focus on enough when Sunshine is around. I started a new book (We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach), which I have recently borrowed from my library’s ebook catalog. I took a bath, enjoying how the warm water relaxed muscles that have known far too much tension lately.

Basically, I worked a little on work but I worked a lot on me.

Today, I took a sick day because I was sick. I needed today.

But I also know that my bosses might not see it that way.

On my way to pick up Sunshine from school this afternoon, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things. It was too early for them to be there, but I worried that I could potentially run into someone higher up at work. I imagined the scenario playing out.

“Aren’t you sick today?”

I am sick.

You look fine now. Are you feeling better?” A little condescending.

Yes and no. I’ve been sick for weeks. I’ve been sick like this before. I’ll be sick like this again. My illness is not physical. It’s all in my head. But it’s real. It is very real. It causes physical symptoms. And the treatment is time and focus and perseverance. Going to work would not have made me better and not being better is not helping me be the best me. I’m sure you understand. And if you don’t. If you truly don’t, then you are one of the lucky ones.

Because people with mental illness do understand. I know you do.

I have not been the best me the last few weeks. When I am not my best me, I do not know how to be the kind of wife and mother that my family deserves.

Today I took a sick day to treat an illness that cannot be seen. My face is not pale, my flesh is not warm, my skin is not clammy. I am not vomiting or coughing.

But I am sick.

And today, I took care of me.

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