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Why I'm Afraid of Taking a Mental Health Day

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Some days, I wake up and my first thought is, “I just can’t do this today.” Most of the time, I can shake it off, get up, get ready and get on with my day. There are those days though where I literally just can’t get out of bed because I feel overwhelmed by anxiety. Although it’s important for people with mental health struggles to be able to take those days when they need them, it’s just uncomfortable.

There are no allocated mental health days built into my calendar, only vacation and sick days. Since I can’t typically plan ahead for a mental health day, it’s often taken as a sick day. I feel like such a liar when I type up the email, informing my co-workers I will not be in today due to an illness.

I want to simply put “I will be taking a mental health day today.” That just never seems like an option though, and it feels wrong that I’m being dishonest, kicking my anxiety into overdrive. So many thoughts run through my head when I’m taking a mental health day, as I lie in bed talking myself in and out of it at least 10 times before I finally make up my mind:

What if they think I’m faking?

I’m sure everyone will judge me as soon as they open this email.

Can I get fired for this?

Maybe I should just suck it up and go to work.

Even after I make up my mind, I still feel anxious. Walking into work the next day is like torture, thinking I will be asked to pack up my desk and leave at any moment. I feel like taking a mental health day is not a valid excuse. Because of these fears, I rarely take mental health days, and if I do I feel like I can’t tell anyone why I won’t be in.

I feel encouraged when I see people standing up for the time they deserve for their mental health. We are not helping ourselves or our workplaces when we come in anxious and under distress. I know many companies are working on erasing the stigma that comes with taking a mental health day, but we have a long way to go.

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Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

Originally published: October 19, 2017
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