Why Depression Is the Only Reason I Call in Sick to Work
The week was like any other. I woke up, I brushed my teeth, I got ready for work and I sat at a desk for eight hours patiently waiting to clock out and attend my Netflix binge of “Grey’s Anatomy.” It’s a routine; it’s my routine. I made it over half-way through the week and I was really looking forward to Friday — we get to wear pajamas to work, I mean, who wouldn’t look forward to that? Everything seemed fine, but that’s how it always seems.
My alarm went off at 6:30 a.m., and I naturally kept hitting snooze until it was almost 7 a.m. I had been doing this for the past two weeks, so I didn’t think much of it. I opened my eyes, I felt alert, not muggy at all. I felt fine. I kept lying there for another five minutes, then 10 minutes, then 15. Why can’t I get up? Then, it hit me; I felt an unbearable weight on my entire body and I couldn’t move. “You need to get up,” I kept repeating to myself over and over again. “You can do this, you’ve been here before, just get up,” the voice inside my head kept yelling. Still, I hadn’t moved. I wasn’t even sure if I’d blinked. I’d been staring at the ceiling going on 20 minutes now. It was 7:20 a.m., and I need to be out the door at 8 a.m. My head started spiraling while I considered my options — I could call out. “That wouldn’t look good,” I said aloud to myself. When’s the last time I called out though? I don’t do it often, if ever at all. Finally, I caved to my depression and decided. I grabbed my phone and sent a text to my supervisor stating I wouldn’t be able to make it in because I wasn’t feeling well. I wished I could just tell her my depression feels like an elephant weighing on my chest, making me immobile. Instead, I pretended I was actually “sick.” But aren’t I?
I was diagnosed with major depression and anxiety when I was 14 years old. I had everything a mentally unstable teen could possibly need; a pill box, an in-home therapist and a lot of outpatient therapy. I was on an antidepressant. I had tried plenty prior to this one, and they all made me feel the same — numb. Around the age of 16, I took myself off all my prescription drugs. I wanted to see how much I could handle without the help of a little pill. I figured I’d rather feel entirely empty and helpless than not feel anything at all. Fast-forward to now. I am 25 years old. I am in school for medical, I have a full-time job in a medical lab, and I am in a very loving relationship. I have become very acquainted with my mental illness. I know when it’s coming, and I do everything in my power to stop myself from spiraling downward. This includes yoga, being outside in nature, writing, listening to music or anything that will occupy my mind from it while it passes. In some ways, my mental illness has helped me. It has made me a perfectionist; I may be entirely too hard on myself to the point where it’s unhealthy, but it results in me getting As in all my classes. It keeps my drive to learn at an all-time high. It challenges me to keep fighting, and it completely wears me out, but I am never prouder of myself than when I do what I need to do, all while wanting to drop to my knees and give up. It has made me one hell of a woman.
There is a stigma surrounding mental illness; it isn’t a “real” disease, it’s all in your head. Believe me, there are times I thought to myself, “maybe they’re right.” Maybe I don’t have depression or anxiety; maybe it’s all hyperbole. Maybe I am just lazy, unmotivated and addicted to feeling this way. This could not be further than the truth, and it is days like today when I know that for a fact. I have driven myself to work with sharp pains shooting through my stomach. I have driven myself to work with strep throat and a fever. I have driven myself to work on days I felt so sick I couldn’t move without wanting to vomit. The one thing that stops me dead in my tracks from being able to do anything is my mental illness. I am tough, but even I cannot bare the punch-in-the-stomach feeling in my gut, or the emptiness in my heart, or the feeling of not caring about anything — not even myself — in that very moment. It takes my breath away. It has me lying in bed wondering who I am, because I don’t feel like an honor student with extreme success; I feel like a nobody. In my little world, time stands completely still. So yes, it’s real, and yes it hurts, and yes, I did call out of work today. I didn’t call out of work because I am a bad employee, or because I wanted to play hooky, but because I needed to for my mental health. I needed to take a day off for me. There isn’t anything selfish about that. We are only human.
So, I finally got myself out of bed and I am spending my day sipping coffee slowly instead of chugging it in a hurry to get out of the door. I made myself a nice breakfast for the first time all week. I am enjoying sitting in the sunshine, writing this article. Most importantly, I am healing today. For the first time in 10 years, I have reached out to a therapist. This is me, taking the steps I need to take to cope with my mental illness, and it all started with me calling out of work.
Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.
Getty Images photo via fizkes