Why It's Hard for Me to Admit I'm Taking a 'Mental Health Day'

Earlier this week I took a “mental health day” from work. The fact that I forgot to take my anxiety meds combined with a hard day at work the day before probably didn’t help my feelings. I usually have trouble getting myself out of bed, but after lying there for a few minutes I’m able to convince myself that the day will be great and will go without a problem. But this day I couldn’t. I ended up lying in bed until 11a.m. before forcing myself to get up. Mainly to show my mom I was alive and well.

I mentioned a headache to my mom when I walked downstairs as the reason. She knows about the anxiety, the meds and the therapist, but I wasn’t sure how to phrase what I was feeling. I definitely didn’t tell my boss that. I just said I wasn’t feeling well. When my coworkers asked the next day, I just mentioned I slept most of the day (which wasn’t a lie). They were the ones that started talking about the flu and bugs going around. I just didn’t stop them.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot — trying to figure out why it’s so hard to mention to someone that the reason I wasn’t at work was because I was taking a mental health day. This is what I came up with:

1. People think you’re faking. They think you’re just being lazy or didn’t want to come into work. Not that you needed this day to recenter and take care of yourself. No one wants me frazzled at work. It wouldn’t have been a pretty sight and I wouldn’t have been much help.

2. It means it won. I have had so much progress with this anxiety. Thanks to those handy meds I take every day. I’m able to drive without having a panic attack; I can call and make an appointment on the phone; I am able to talk to people and work full time. But sometimes it creeps up and scares me. Taking a mental health day means that I still haven’t beaten it. But I don’t think I will, or at least completely. I know that I’ll always have this. It’ll always be a struggle. It’s a fight I go through on a daily basis.

3. It’s hard to explain and people rarely understand. I need this day because I can’t force myself out of bed and into society. I can’t just say that to my boss without raising a few eyebrows. Unless someone has struggled with a mental illness, it can be hard for them to understand what it’s like.

4. It’s not acceptable to take a mental health day. If you’re sick, people sympathize and tell you to feel better. Unfortunately, the same can’t always be said about mental health. Sometimes you have a select few who do understand. People don’t talk about it enough. It should be a topic for discussion. Both in the workplace and at home, but it’s not.

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Thinkstock photo via cyano66

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