Mental Health Day

I’m home sick today.

I don’t have a cold, or a fever, or a rash.

But I am sick. I am experiencing symptoms of a chronic disease. The symptoms are severe enough that they prohibit me from going to work.

I am taking a mental health day.

Sometimes when people say that, they mean that they need a day off. They need some time to themselves. Or they need to catch up on personal things. And all of those things contribute to good mental health. And I am not taking that phrase away from people who use it that way. I’ve used it that way.

But today, I am taking a mental health day because I am sick.

I am exhausted. And incredibly anxious. My heart is racing. I keep feeling like I’ll burst into tears at any moment. And a few times, I have gone ahead and burst into tears, because I know that will make me feel better. My thoughts are fuzzy. I have to keep referring to my daily checklist so I know what to do next. Ah. Eat breakfast. Got it.

Some of the tasks are considerably more difficult. Like working on assignments for my students. Or writing reports. Or straightening the apartment, which is a mess. Again. So I use baby steps. Or at least I try to. Because it’s not a matter of just fighting through.

I have a disease. And I am having trouble today.

I have had people tell me before that I am brave for talking about my depression and anxiety. I have never felt brave. I never really understood the stigma. It’s a disease. It’s my brain chemistry. It’s not like I did anything to bring it on. But it occurs to me today that almost every time I write about mental illness, it is in periods of health. And sitting in the middle of it, i don’t want people to know. I don’t want them to hear about how I struggle, and my heart races, and I cry. I am a perfectly capable adult who can get through things. Most people are shocked when they first learn of my illness because it so severely contradicts who I usually am. And I prefer that opinion people have of me. A fun, successful mom and wife and friend and writer and singer and teacher… No one likes to show their flaws.

And that’s when I remember- this is exactly the time I need to be open about it. If I can’t share my struggles when I’m feeling them, how can I ever expect the stigma to go away?

So. I do the things I’ve been trained to do. I reach out to friends. I give myself the space I need. I make sure I get enough protein. I find out the time for the next yoga class is at my gym.

And I write. And I share.

This Thursday, I’ll be attending an event called Stories Over Stigma. Just click the link and you can get all the info. If you’re in the NYC area, I’d love to see you there. We can share stories together. Because there’s no reason for us to stay silent.

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